I'm not too old that I can't remember waiting in line for lunch at my elementary school cafeteria on the days that I didn't bring my lunch to school. One year I even worked in the cafeteria serving food and cleaning those plastic school cafeteria trays. There are a lot of changes taking place at our local schools and there are some very cool things happening inside the cafeteria.
The old plastic lunch tray may become a thing of the past. Many districts around the country are making a huge effort to green up their operations and have started to use compostable lunch trays made from sugar cane. They have also added biodegradable plate
s and other compostable tableware to their operations. They save on water and labor cleaning everything, and the waste is composted and doesn't end up in a landfill.
A lot of products pretend to be green, and many are made of compostable materials but then they add a layer of plastic or other material for strength, and they turn a compostable product into trash. Be careful about what you buy. Look for 100% compostable products, like bagasse (sugar cane) or bamboo, look for products that meet the ASTM D6868 standards for compostability and look for the certification of the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) all on the forefront of helping us understand what meets the standard and what does not.
Another thing that has changed in the local school lunch program is the move to centralized kitchens producing meals for an entire school district. In the old days, lunches were made locally at the school and supplies were simply shipped in to give them the ingredients to produce a meal. There is tremendous cost savings by producing meals at a centralized kitchen, but the new twist is the packaging that needs to be used to keep the food fresh on its travels out to the school. Many districts are starting to utilize more ecofriendly trays, biodegradable plates and even biodegradable cutlery in their lunch rooms to eliminate as much waste as possible from their operations. Again, remember to look for compostable products to cut down or eliminate the waste like biodegradable plates and bowls, ecofriendly cutlery and cups.
There are many simple things that school food operations can do to make their efforts as green as possible. If you are still using lunch trays, buy a compostable one. If you serve meals to teachers and other adult staff use biodegradable plates and bowls that are compostable, and you can even buy a compostable hot drink cup lid for coffee cups that has just arrived on the market. A little effort can pay some big dividends in your community.
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