That’s also a problem.
Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s important that schools serve their students healthful meals that include fruits and vegetables. Harvard’s study shows some progress in getting kids to actually eat the produce options in their lunches, and increasing numbers of cafeteria salad bars and school gardens across the country can help expose students to unfamiliar fruits and vegetables.
We seem to be headed in the right direction, slowly but surely.
But until student produce acceptance becomes the norm (and cafeterias stop serving mystery meat), what’s to be done about all that food that winds up in the trash?
Some schools are already exploring one solution.
A June 22 article in The New York Times relates the development of New York City’s school composting program, which was started two years ago by parents on the city’s Upper West Side and has spread to 230 schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
The program is expected to be in all five of the city’s boroughs this fall, reporter Al Baker writes, and eventually include all of its schools.
When they’ve finished lunch, students sort their refuse out into bins for garbage, recyclables and food scraps or uneaten food. The food is then sent to composting operations in New York or Delaware, where it’s layered with wood chips and begins the months-long process of becoming compost, which the city can then sell, Baker says.
Participating schools generated 1,400 tons of waste food from September to March, according to the article. That’s 200 tons a month not going into a landfill. Let’s hope that amount will keep decreasing — and that kids will eat more of their food in the first place.
Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago schools also have composting programs. Maybe someone needs to introduce the idea in L.A.
One recurring theme in school food coverage from across the country was taste. High school students in Los Angeles complained about sour apricots in April, and elementary school kids in New York turned up their noses at green-tinged bananas.
I’m sure the majority of schools aren’t serving underripe or overripe fruits and vegetables, but to me this underscored the importance of produce education for kids and foodservice providers alike.