A large bowl of spaghetti awaited the students lined up in the Marshall Student Center on Monday evening.
Some said they wanted only a cheap dinner, but the majority said they cared about something more than the pasta – the environment.
“Spaghetti for Social Justice” was hosted by the Student Environmental Association (SEA) and Bull Service Breaks (BSB), with proceeds funding future ecological expeditions.
Danielle Kaminski, an SEA member and a senior majoring in environmental science and policy, said the donations will fund SEA’s trip to a social and environmental justice conference in New Orleans later this month.
“It’s a little bit out of our realm because we aren’t technically a social justice club,” she said. “But the environment is something shared by everyone, and the fact that it is being degraded is a justice issue.”
SEA President William Wysong, a senior majoring in environmental science and policy, said environmental injustice is deeply related to social injustice.
“We’re all connected and everyone deserves to be able to live free of environmental crimes or social justice violations,” he said. “Injustice is disproportionate harm done to people with no voice. The landfill is always next to the poor neighborhood.”
Wysong said awareness requires not only outreach to universities, but to businesses as well. When told about the dinner, Olive Garden agreed to provide salad, breadsticks and spaghetti. Chipotle also donated burritos for the event.
A plate that included food from both Olive Garden and Chipotle cost $5, and students could also buy raffle tickets for $2.
Not all of the dinner’s proceeds went to SEA’s trip to New Orleans. Half the $328 raised from the roughly 50 students in attendance went toward the BSB’s national park restoration efforts.
Juliana Cabrera, a member of BSB and a senior majoring in international studies and history, said the group hopes to volunteer at a national park in Tennessee over spring break.
“We have advantages as students to take action. We will have a hands-on impact to better our national parks and our environment,” she said. “We see the environment changing rapidly.”
Kaminski said growing up on a Native American reservation in Arizona influenced her profound respect for nature. She said people today have no right to use the environment all for themselves, with no regard for future generations.
“Not allowing people to have a choice of whether they want to live in a healthy or unhealthy environment is unjust,” she said. “Consumer lifestyle has to change first. People think humans are separate from the environment. Stopping that thinking is what we are here for.”