I happen to be fortunate enough to have a scholarship that covers room and board for me at RPI. However, since I now live off campus this means that I can only use it for my meal plan, leading to me having a meal plan when I rather not.
Because of this situation I have been asking myself "How can I eat ethically when my food options are chosen for me by another party?"
It is very hard to avoid supporting factory farming and unsustainable food practices when the only options I have available when I go into my dining hall are food choices that come from sources I'd rather not eat from. So, I would like to point out several of the options available on campus that are available to those who wish to eat more ethically.
The most obvious options would be to eat only from the salad bar, and to choose the vegetarian option that Tofu Tim offers, while it is hard to know how the greens one is eating are grown, it is a healthier and more moral choice than eating the meat that is offered, but the reality is there is not much in the way of choice with Sodexho.
However, this doesn't mean that there aren't better alternatives on campus. Sodexho is proud to point out that the coffee it offers all over campus is fair trade, and every Wednesday you can go to the Terra Cafe, which offers excellent organic and local food, and whether you choose the vegetarian or meat option you will be getting an amazing meal.
There are some options for good sustainable food on campus, but there are better ways to ensure ethical eating with your limited choices on campus, the key option being to actually talk to Sodexho. Communication is usually the only way anything gets done, and what better way to improve your limited eating options than talking to the actual food provider? Since the food quality at RPI is a running joke, I'm sure Sodexho is always looking for alternatives for food options, and I know they are willing to take suggestions, the changes with Sodexho's pizza delivery service is some proof of that.
Also, in the case of Java ++ Sodexho is desperate for student input in how to make their venues profitable. I know at one time Sodexho was willing to turn Java ++ into an outlet where organic food was served to attract more students, but the idea fell apart because it didn't get enough student support.
So, the moral of the story is this: if you are tired of going into the food halls and seeing the same unsustainable food options there are alternatives around campus, but if you are looking for long term improvements talk to Sodexho themselves. They may be a scary big company, but they do listen to students, and if the are motivated correctly (i.e. give them a way to make Java ++ profitable) then Sodexho will be more than happy to listen to you.