Ally Guo | Staff Writer


Photo by Ally Guo

Fruit? In the dump. Vegetables? In the dump. Grains? In the dump. Just how much food do you toss?

Seventh grader Alexandra Caldwell said she occasionally throws away a portion of her bought lunch.

“Usually I can’t eat my entire sandwich, so sometimes part of my sandwich (is thrown away),” Caldwell said.

Seventh grader Faith Tang said the quality of her school lunch is sometimes what causes her to refuse to eat it.

“Nothing (is thrown away), well, usually nothing unless it’s mushy,” Tang said.

Child nutrition supervisor Tamara Earl said that a method called batch cooking helps keep food fresh right before being served.“(The kitchen staff workers) do what is called batch cooking, so that some of those things, such as broccoli, that are really susceptible to being mushy, we’re cooking that before each lunch because it will not hold,” Earl said.

Despite actions having been taken to try make school lunches healthier, the amount of food wastage may still be on the rise. In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act went into action. Schools are now required to limit milk choices to nonfat or 1 percent% white milk, students now had to take one fruit or vegetable with their meal, and the amount of sodium in meals was to be reduced, along with many other things.

According to CBS News, after the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was implemented, researchers from the University of Vermont discovered that though students were taking the required fruits and vegetables, they were not necessarily eating them. In fact, the food wastage increased by 56 percent.

Caldwell said she agrees that this may be an issue. She also states, however, that students of this age should already know what they should eat to remain healthy.

“I feel like if you’re at this age, you should know that you should be eating your fruits and vegetables, but a lot of kids don’t,” Caldwell said. “I don’t really think there’s a way to watch over kids’ shoulders and see if they’re eating them or not.”

Seventh grader Megan Tan said fruits or vegetables should not be required.

“I mean, it doesn’t really affect how we eat,” Tan said. “A lot of the kids at our school just throw (them) away.”

Earl said that Mason schools are part of the National School Lunch Program, a federally assisted program the provides nutritious and low-cost meals to many schools and child care centers, and therefore must follow its guidelines.

“We’re putting out there the items that are meeting the nutrients requirements that we are obligated to meet based on the United States Department of Agriculture and the congressional guidelines,” Earl said.

Time allotted for mealtimes may also affect food wastage. Mason Middle School child nutrition kitchen manager Kim Elfers said that limited time may be a big factor in the amount of food not being consumed.

“I know that I’ve heard in the past, even from my own child, that there’s not enough time to eat,” Elfers said. “That thirty minutes, that doesn’t give them enough time to visit their friends and talk and do whatever, go to recess, and have enough time to eat their entire meal.”

Earl said that while this is a problem, the lunch period at Mason Middle School is already quite unconstrained.

“One of our concerns is that it does take more time to eat fruits and vegetables,” Earl said. “It takes more time to eat this fresh fruit and vegetables. And we are up against a schedule of a school that’s trying to manage so many things. Actually, (the) lunch period here at Mason Middle is probably one of the most generous in the district. Many of (the other schools) have less time to eat. So I do think time is a factor.”

Caldwell said that good food does not come inexpensively, and that the wasted food most likely costs the school a rather large sum of money.

“Probably quite a bit,” Caldwell said. “I know fruits and vegetables aren’t cheap to get, so probably quite a bit of money.”

Tan, however, said she disagrees. She said that the school may save money when food is bought in large amounts at a time.

“Not a lot (of money is wasted), because usually we’ll buy things in bulk,” Tan said. “When you buy things in bulk, they’re usually cheaper.”

According to information provided by Earl, child nutrition assistant supervisor Janelle Brunswick, and Elfers, the cost of the food alone in one school lunch can vary from about $1.03 to $3.07.

“Our entrees consist of proteins and grains,” Earl said. “When I surveyed the offerings that we have, the price ranges from anywhere from seventy-five cents to as much as a dollar-fifty cents for your center of the plate item. The cheapest we pay for any fruit or vegetable is twenty-five cents, some of ours go up to forty-five cents a serving. And then milk right now is averaging about twenty-two cents per carton.”

Tan said that students should eat the food that they get, unless they have a good reason not to.

“Sometimes it is really gross, the things that our cafeteria will make,” Tan said. “But, if you can eat it and if you’re hungry, you shouldn’t have to throw it away.”