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School lunch feeds students and dumpsters

SAT. | 02-19-22 | OPINION

     School lunch is a wonderful program offered to the students at Rose. This year it is free, and it is brought to students during their lunch period across the halls of the schools on tall, rolling carts. The food is filling and there is a solid variety to pick from. On top of that, the cafeteria workers are always doing their best to make sure we have food on time, and in a safe and healthy manner. However, one thing about school lunch has caught my attention and refused to let go: waste. My observations line up with information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which states that 30-40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. 

     When going to a lunch cart during my designated lunch block, I used to use styrofoam trays to stack up more plastic and styrofoam cups of food. Then I would get plastic utensils to eat with. After I ate, all of those containers and wrappings would end up in the trash. The tray especially is completely wasted, since all the food is in individual cups and never touches it. After eating, I would go out in the halls to throw away my trash only to 

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see giant gray trash cans overflowing with trays and untouched food. Once I realized how wasteful the materials are, I tried to only grab the cups of food and not the trays. Even then, I was still using large amounts of environmentally harmful materials, all for a twenty-five-minute meal. 

     A different food packaging system would be more beneficial to the school and the environment. We cannot prevent students from throwing food away, but we can control what the food is thrown away in. As a student, I do not know all the loops our administration has to jump through to follow COVID-19 protocols and keep students safe. However, I do know that before COVID-19, Rose still used an unnecessary amount of plastic and styrofoam in the lunch program. Once it is safe to do so, Rose should reduce the waste the program creates.

     Many high schools used melamine plates and metal utensils to serve food until the late nineties. Though schools had to take a little extra time to wash them, they did not have to keep buying single-use materials. Today, American society favors the route of convenience over all else. It is evident not just in school lunches, but in many restaurants and fast food places who also overuse single-use items that quickly end up in the trash. Rose shifting their practices away from the route of convenience would be a good example for students to do the right thing, even if it is harder.

     I would like to advocate for the staff of Rose to plan and budget for reusable lunch materials in the imminent future so that when COVID-19 slows down, they will be able to smoothly implement a more environmentally friendly lunch program. 

     Rose has already installed a solar panel in the front of the school, showing some promise of a greener future. A greener lunch program is the next step to making our school environmentally friendly. There is a rising number of grants for schools who invest in greener initiatives, quite like the grant for the solar panel at the front of Rose.

     School lunch is wonderful, and I am glad that I and hundreds of other students have access to free food every school day. I only hope to improve the program more, not to slander any of the wonderful impacts it has on the Rose community. 

     (I also want to shout out my favorite lunch lady, Ms. Shonica! Thank you for helping me have something to eat every day <3) 

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