Schools’ Waste

It’s not often that we get front page food waste news. Because wasted food is so commonplace in America, it’s not usually newsworthy. 

Yet, an article generally makes the cut when the squandering costs more than a half million dollars and includes a nice helping of fraud. That’s what happened Sunday, when The Commercial Appeal broke a humdinger of an investigative story about mismanagement of food by the Memphis City Schools. It’s a complicated (and sad) tale, but for our purposes, here’s the relevant info:

But too much food was ordered, and it was stored improperly, forcing the CNC recently to dump nearly $600,000 worth of spoiled food in a landfill.

1941 school lunch, Penasdco, New Mexico (USDA photo)First, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the school district threw away that much food instead of composting it. Still, that one doesn’t go down smoothly.

Second, despite the “Schools get a Taste of Waste” headline and the “$600,000 Bungle” subhead, only two of 20 comments on the newspaper’s Web site even mention food loss. Granted there’s plenty else to discuss (scroll down to the city’s nutrition-challenged grocery list at the end of the article), but, really?!

I e-mailed education reporter Dakarai Aarons, and he said the food waste only came to light after he received a tip. He also told me that the tossed items included chicken nuggets, pizza and hamburgers and that the food was thrown away in one fell swoop last week after being catalogued for about two weeks.

The load was so large, the school district needed several trucks to cart it to the landfill. I wonder what $600,000 worth of food looks like in a landfill. I wonder if it’s even noticeable.

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Follow-up: The Memphis City School Board is also curious what $600k of food waste looks like and will “grill top officials” to assess how that happens.

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