In the mid ‘90s, the Government Accounting Office studied school food and discovered that 42 percent of cooked vegetables and 30 percent of raw vegetables/salad were wasted. The GAO also found 55 percent of cafeteria managers didn’t think food waste was a problem.
Digging Deep Through School Trash
A waste composition analysis of trash, recycling and organic material discarded at public schools in Minnesota
– Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
We’re betting (hoping) that 15 years later, more cafeteria managers think there’s a disaster in their dumpsters. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found volunteer divers to sort through the trash generated at six schools. They found that the most prominent single material was food waste at 24 percent.
An article in USDA’s Food Review, estimated that approximately 12 percent of food served as part of the National School Lunch Program was wasted, resulting in a direct economic loss of over $600 million.
It’s not just cash that’s wasted. When those food scraps wind up in the landfill they produce methane gas, 20 times more efficient at capturing heat than carbon dioxide.
Smart schools are supporting a new chapter of the Clean Plate Club with simple strategies such as rescheduling lunch so that it follows recess. And Oregon gets a shout-out in the Food Review article for decreasing waste by as much as 36 percent by offering more fruit and vegetable choices.
Ask your school how you can help cut greenhouse gasses. Waste Free Lunches has great tips for taming trash at school, as well as saving money and reducing waste when packing a lunch.