It is easy to feel gloomy as we approach the end of the semester?the days are becoming darker, school work is getting more difficult and the economy is in a downward spiral. However, despite all that, we have much to be thankful for. As the temperature drops, we all have warm dorm rooms to go home to every night. Many of us will take a break from classes next week to spend time with loved ones. And, every day, we are treated to some of the best college food in the country, clearly evidenced by last night's spectacular Thanksgiving feast.

As we left the dining hall yesterday, though, we noticed something familiar?countless trays in the carousel with piles of leftover food. Though it's easy on Thanksgiving to be tempted by all the delicious options, food waste is something we've observed on a regular basis: half-eaten burgers, unfinished salads, even whole muffins and bagels.

This week, EcoReps for Sustainable Bowdoin conducted a food waste audit at Thorne, and they found that those who participated threw away almost 40 pounds of food. Though this number is relatively low, food waste is an ongoing problem on our campus.

For those of us on meal plans, plentiful food can be taken for granted. As we return to the serving line for seconds and thirds, it's easy to forget that there are thousands of people around the state that have to rely on others' good will for their firsts. According to a recent study by the Kennebec Journal, Maine has the highest level of household-level food insecurity in New England, at about 3.5 percent?and the problem is getting worse. Between 2002 and 2005, according to the same study, the number of food stamps issued to Maine families jumped by almost 50 percent.

This isn't just a problem in the state's poorest counties up north and Downeast?it affects Brunswick as well. The Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program?where Bowdoin sends some of its leftover food?serves well over one hundred lunches each day. And with the souring economy, those numbers are likely to grow in the near future. While cleaning your plate may not directly solve the problem of hunger, it's a good way for us to show that we are truly thankful for our nourishment on a daily basis.

Finally, if you wish, go beyond symbolism. Educate yourself about hunger in Maine. Contact the McKeen Center for the Common Good and arrange to volunteer at the Brunswick Soup Kitchen. Perhaps the only thing better than being truly thankful is to be thanked by someone else.

The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient?s editorial board, which comprises Nick Day, Mary Helen Miller, Cati Mitchell and Nat Herz.