Did you know one day in Commons, nearly 38 lbs. of food was wasted just by spills on the counters alone? If that’s the common practice, that adds up pretty quickly, averaging to about 10,000 lbs. of waste a year, according to a poster provided by Dining Services. And that’s just the food that gets wiped off the counters.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have three meals a day prepared for them by trained professionals and culinary artists—not to mention that these are some of the kindest staff members on the Bates College campus. Imagine how undervalued they must feel when people are careless and disrespect the food they work so hard to create.

Leaving tea wrappers on the counter, dropping food on the floor and leaving it for someone else to pick up, or dumping lemons in the fountain drink dispenser are a few behaviors that are an unfortunate occurrence in the dining hall. We see it everyday. Plenty of us have sat at a table covered in spills and food remnants, or grabbed the serving tongs only to find them covered in sauce, or sticky with jam. And I’m sure everyone at one point or another was the cause of these spills.

Some of this may be a matter of mere discomfort. For others, however, it is a matter of their personal safety. Cross-contamination is a serious matter, and Dining Services has made extensive efforts to ensure the wellbeing of all students with food allergies or dietary restrictions.

Back to the jam example: butter and jam makes toast all the better. Using a utensil that has already come into contact with nut butter or peanut butter, however, contaminates the jam for the rest of the campus community and makes the food extremely dangerous for anyone with a food allergy.

Heard this all before? Have you seen the signs posted at various stations? Sure you have. Now it’s time to take it to heart.

Those cross-contamination signs are not in vain. The nut and peanut butter station does not exist by chance. Everything Dining Services does is intentional and meant to make everyone’s meal time in Commons a happy and safe one.

“New” Commons as we know it today opened in the Winter of 2008 and has been staple of many students’ Bates experience. It is a social place, a community gathering place. Time, energy and heart go into the food that is put out each day for us to enjoy. So the next time you go up for seconds (or thirds), think carefully about how you treat the food, and the people, who make our dining experience feel like home.