The National School Waste Program

Here’s an interesting piece on waste in the National School Lunch Program. I’ve discussed school food waste before, but I find all stories on the topic fascinating.

The attention grabber is that tax payer dollars are being thrown out. Does that make it worse than when kids throw out their parents’ (also tax payers) money by tossing their veggies and fruit? Food is still being sent to the landfill, usually at an alarming rate. This 2002 piece on the topic notes that studies on school plate waste range from 10 to 35 percent.

We should all object to dumpstered food because of its significant environmental impact. Yet, the fact that free food is being wasted usually yields disapproval on economic ($600 million squandered at 12 percent waste) and cultural grounds.

The original piece raises some questions: Because these kids receive their breakfast and lunch for free, is it more frustrating that they waste a large amount of food? The implication there would be that if kids really needed the food, they would eat it all. Then again, if they ate all of their greens, they might not be kids. (…joking) 

In light of rising free lunch rolls, should there be more scrutiny on the finances of the applicants? Does the fact that the food is free impact how students perceive of it? Or is it more that the food’s quality leaves plenty to be desired?

The taste vs. health question is a hard one. There’d certainly be less waste if we served kids what tasted best to them. But I’m not sure serving Hot Cheetos would help anyone’s well-being. That’s why I don’t envy school nutritionists. Except the ones who work in Berkeley.

It’s important not to lose sight of this: it’s awesome that we can provide for those in need. And we should, because we’re a wealthy nation. There are some strategic changes we can make in how we serve lunch, perhaps. Yet, we have so much excess, we can afford to risk some waste in the name of feeding kids.

Your thoughts? And disagreeing with that last ‘graf doesn’t (necessarily) mean that you hate kids.

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