One Redditor recently sounded the alarm about a problem in their school’s lunchroom.
The user, who claimed to be a night custodian, shared a photo of what they found in the trash during their shift: a large garbage can piled with individual milk cartons.
“About half of this 50-gallon trash can is full of perfectly good cartons of milk,” they said, adding in a comment that the milk was still ice cold. “Expiration date is in two weeks. Schools waste a lot of food.”
The problem is sadly common. Another user, who said she was a lunch lady at a junior high/high school, shared her frustrating battle with her administration.
“The school I work for flat out refuses to give me a daily lunch count so I can try to minimize food waste,” she said in her comment. “Instead, [the administration] tells me, ‘don’t worry, we budget for thrown out food.’ The ****?”
The cafeteria worker said that she has done her best to track trends on her own. However, without an accurate count from the administration, she has to cook extra.
“There are times I am left with 30+ extra servings,” she said.
“As a former child who went hungry, this hurts,” one commenter replied. “Some of the teachers are probably going hungry these days, and they have to just sit back and watch their school throw away tons of food.”
Some schools have taken steps to stop the misuse of food. One Utah elementary school that composts its food waste to make biofuel and fertilizer successfully diverts an average of 2,500 pounds of food waste from landfills each month while teaching children about more sustainable eating habits.
One Ohio school district that minimizes food waste through education about the issue was able to divert 100 tons of food — at least five school buses’ worth of waste — from the landfill while saving $22,000 in the 2018-19 school year.
The World Wildlife Fund also conducted a study on ways to minimize the amount of milk students throw out by using a milk dispenser instead of individual cartons.
Unfortunately, all of these solutions rely on a cooperative administration. Without that, staff may have to sneak around to make any difference at all.
“If a kid is negative like $2, but wants seconds [from] the surplus of food, you better believe I tell them to just take it,” said the lunch lady. “If my boss saw me do it I would get fired immediately, but I’ll happily get fired knowing I didn’t deprive a hungry kid from food that’s going to waste. One of my coworkers has pet pigs; we smuggle out all the leftovers for her in trash bags to feed them.”
If you’re interested in helping curb your child’s school’s waste, check out how to get the ball rolling.
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