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Student leader prompts change in dining services on-campus

By Dartunorro Clark, editor-in-chief: the chicago bloc[k] (dclar4@uic.edu)

Have you eaten eggs in any of the UIC dining facilities? Can you taste the difference? You should. You are now eating healthier, better prepared eggs (from production to consumption)  in UIC’s dining facilities. Actually, cage-free eggs. This is because  UIC Dining has recently taken the initiative to serve cage-free eggs in their facilities and someone to thank is UIC’s EcoCampus.

Cage-free eggs are a more sustainably-produced type of egg. In the typical egg-production, chickens are forced into small cages, with bases no larger than the size of an iPad. “This type of environment is inhumane for the chicken, unsafe for workers, increases chances of salmonella contamination in eggs, and is a huge source of pollution–chicken waste is burned or dumped in rivers in these cases,” said EcoCampus President David Klawitter via email. “Having cage-free eggs, the chickens are given more freedom, usual with larger community cages or time outside their cage to socialize. This treatment reverses the negative effects of eggs produced by caged chickens.”

EcoCampus is student-run dedicated to sustainability issues on the UIC campus, as well as on the municipal, national, and global level. Their mission is to create and/or preserve a sustainable community where people can live, learn, and work. 

David Klawitter, a UIC student and President of EcoCampus, is incredibly proud of the accomplishment. “There’s no denying the significance of this change. Not only has UIC shown a real interest in becoming more sustainable and set a good example for future work to be done, but also this change shows students that change can happen at UIC,” said Klawitter. “Students have more power than they think. With a well-organized, well-thought out plan, students can approach the university with their ideas and petition for a change.”

David Klawitter, president of EcoCampus, happily stands near sign in a dining facility on-campus, promoting the effort of serving cage-fre eggs.

In the beginning, EcoCampus was not aware of this type of this sustainability initiative. Then, The Humane League’s Chicago branch reached out to EcoCampus and proposed making the change at UIC. EcoCampus then met with Chartwells, the UIC Dining agency, in the fall 2012 semester to talk about their concerns and about the process of using cage-free eggs. EcoCampus, along with the help of the Humane League, students, professors, and other student organizations signed support letters to show Chartwells that  the UIC community supported the initiative. However, “the cost, no matter how small, was something that Chartwells was not willing to pass on to the students or the university, so they had to figure out a way to make it work,” explained Klawitter.

“Chartwells had figured out how to work their budget to purchase the eggs. And thus, as of the last week of January 2013, all of UIC’s dining halls now serve 100% cage-free eggs with their meals,” said Klawitter. 

Now all of UIC’s dining halls serve 100% cage-free eggs with their meals.

“The impact is hugely positive,” said Klawitter.

With cage-free eggs, it is not only more sustainable but there are major health benefits such as: Less fat and cholesterol, more vitamin A, more vitamin B, and having higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in cage-free eggs.

“As students, if we see something that needs to be done, it is our duty to make that happen. In this case, UIC had an opportunity to fix a glaring environmental problem,” explained Klawitter. “When students saw this and spoke up, change happened. It is a very satisfying feeling when a project works out and has real life benefits. Not only am I happy for EcoCampus for making this happen, but I am happy for UIC for taking a large step in the right direction. Now students should feel better physically and consciously about now consuming cage-free eggs. Also, students should feel more inclined to be active in change-making on the campus.”

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