Are your kids being forced to be wasteful at school?

Yesterday was only the second day for our daughter being back at school after what felt like an all-too-short summer and, after once again taking the position of Recycling & Environmental Programs Chairperson at her school, I’ve already found myself with Mission #1 for the year… yea, in all of TWO DAYS!cafe-tray

It seems that our children are actually being forced to be wasteful in the lunchroom and my head is just spinning.  The situation was brought to light by a close friend who volunteered to help new students become accustom to the cafeteria line process and when her story began with an “oh, let me tell you about THIS!” I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

The problem?  All students purchasing a lunch are forced to take all items on the lunch menu, even if they don’t want them!  My friend told me I probably would have choked at how many unopened single-serve applesauce containers met the trash can.  My heart just sank.  Not only is this horribly wasteful, but can you imagine how many food pantries could benefit from all of the unused foods that are thrown away daily?!?

I can’t imagine what policy is in place that literally makes this waste a “rule”, but I certainly intend to find out!  Maybe it’s so the school can say that, while they can’t control what the children eat, it was at least given to them… but if this is the case, it’s a lousy standard.

cafet-lineMy hope is to find a place that would accept these unopened foods and allow them to benefit.  With so many regulations, it may be hard to do.  And then I will need to get the school on board, so that will likely be another huge administrative hurdle, but this one ladies and gents, Mom Goes Green is taking on!!! I never knew about this before, since our daughter is a daily waste-free lunch girl(!), but now I NEED to try to make something happen.  It WILL be my first mission.

If you have a similar story to share and ideas of how to resolve this dilemma, please let me know… I would love to hear it!  And if this story sounds similar to a situation in your own child’s school, consider joining me and see what you can do to make a positive change!

Less waste means less trash, and food for those who need it… in that situation everyone wins!

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8 thoughts on “Are your kids being forced to be wasteful at school?

  1. Hi Doreen, I just came across your site and I think it’s great! Before I started I was a teacher and I can tell you this practice of making the kids take each item is all over the place. I can’t tell you how many sealed milk containers and other things had to be thrown away. Especially bags of grahms or something, it’s not like they were going to expire the next day. It’s a shame because school’s budgets are so tight as it is and the companies that run the cafeterias say this is the way it has to be.

  2. I visited my kids’ cafeteria during summer school in June and was taking with one of the custodians about the trash. They use (gasp) styrofoam trays for hot lunches. After the kids eat and empty their trays, they have to stack them together. I thought they had found some way to recycle them, but when I asked the custodian what they do with them, he said they actually throw them in the trash. I’m sure they switched from reusable trays and silverware for cost reasons but I would love to do a “true” cost comparison. And maybe figure out how to convince them to compost too. Small steps, I guess…

  3. It is amazing how much food at school is wasted. My children have always taken lunches but I often go to school to enjoy lunch with them, and see many kids throwing away lots of food. The trash is out of this world and I have yet to understand why the schools make them take everything, but it is very wasteful.

  4. Not sure about CA, but in NY kids MUST (ie forced) to take X amount of items to have a “balanced lunch.” They can throw it away but that’s what the state govt considers the best way to FORCE kids to eat healthy.

    Completely ignoring that one meal a day with all their friends in 25 minutes isn’t going to teach them anything. :/ I’ve always told my kids to eat everything, I’m not paying for a stupid piece of pizza, if you get it, EAT IT.

    So there’s your answer, most likely the state govt forces this, or the school forces this, all under the idea that it will force kids to eat healthy.

    Interesting thing about the Styrofoam too: it can be recycled, but it’s not practical in most areas. I’m exaggerating here, but, for example, you’d need a hockey arena stadium filled with it to make it worth the cost for the trash company. And that would take a long time to fill up.

  5. Christine – such a sad reality… waste is NEVER okay!

    dana – oh, no… not styrofoam. At least I am happy that my daughter’s school uses reusable trays.

    Tara – the waste that happens it is amazing… and disheartening.

    The Happy Friar – the more I hear the more I realize that this IS a widespread problem. But you’re absolutely right. Just because it lands on a child’s lunch tray doesn’t mean they’ll eat it. I guess it’s just another way for governments to say they’re ‘doing their part’ even if the waste is abundant. And styrofoam… when will that TRASH disappear? Never, unfortunately. It’s all a matter of being cheap and convenient without any consideration for the effect…

  6. I find it disheartening as well the amount of food tossed for lunchs (and the amount of scraps that could be in a compost such as orange peels!) but sad to say, it’s a state regulation, to provide the healthy lunch kids are reqiuired to have x of z things on their plate, at least here they don’t have to take ALL of it but must have three items at least or somthing like that, and they are provided options so they can choose a bread and jelly over what they don’t like or a salad or a fruit serving etc…. everyone is walking a fine line trying to balance the needs with responsible….but they are attempting… my goal next year may be to provide a bucket for the orange and banana peels…and cross my fingers they are done right, the plastic bolttle recycle bins I provide now are filled with more trash than plastic and there is NO recycling options here, I have to pack them up in a truck and take them on a trip once a month…..some days it doesn’t seem worth it (extra gas just to drive stuff to be recycled?!?!?) but I trudge on…..there are so many areas that are just too small to viably support recycling…. what can they do???? anyhow, wandered off tangent a little… just wanted to let you know it may just be a government regulation for healthy eating……….

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