Students Start Food Fight For Reusable School Lunch Trays.


reusable school lunch trays

Kids are going green, and not just at home. A cadre of student activists at Piney Branch elementary school in Takoma Park, MD, are agitating to replace the throw-away polystyrene lunch trays used in their public school cafeteria with reusable, washable ones. They’ve raised over $10,000 towards the purchase of a dishwasher to clean the trays. Officials who oversee the school in Montgomery County, MD have thus far refused to allow the kids to even test out a reusable trays program, saying it is too expensive. But the kids are fighting on.

Full disclosure: Both my kids attended Piney Branch, which is located near the Washington, D.C. border about three blocks from my house, and educates students in the third, fourth and fifth grades. But my son and daughter left long before more environmentally aware kids formed “The Young Activists Club” and launched their inspiring reusable tray campaign.

Why Reusable School Lunch Trays?

The kids are concerned because the polystyrene in the trays is a “known neurotoxin and suspected human carcinogen,” they say on their website.

“But there’s more,” they say. “It turns out polystyrene has a high carbon footprint as it’s made from fossil fuels. In addition, unlike other types of plastics such as beverage bottles (PET, #1) and milk jugs (HDPE, #2), its recycling level is virtually zero. It is not biodegradable, either. This means polystyrene that is littered will end up eventually in our watersheds and the world’s oceans where it can have devastating impacts on water life.

“Plus, the disposable polystyrene trays cost our school thousands of dollars a year. Based on 6 cases a week used, we calculated that the County spends $3,497 to supply Piney Branch Elementary with disposable trays and another $1,522 to provide the school with disposable plastic cutlery each year.”The kids, who are advised by two parent volunteers, argue that it would be cheaper, healthier and better for the environment to use a safer alternative. “There are about two dozen communities that have banned in one way or another the use of polystyrene for food service ware. Yeah! We are not alone!”
In addition to washable ware, which is the best environmental choice, eco-friendlier options include compostable paper trays.
thumb_greenThe kids plan to appeal the County’s decision and continue to agitate for reusable or more environmentally friendly lunch trays. Meanwhile, they’ve produced a YouTube video in which they perform the song they’ve written to explain their campaign. It’s called, “Goodnight, Styrene,” which they sing to the tune of “Goodnight, Irene.” Take a look.
Thumbs up, kids!

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8 Responses to Students Start Food Fight For Reusable School Lunch Trays.

  1. Diane MacEachern August 11, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    Thanks, Irene. You’re exactly right.

  2. tami August 12, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    Kuddo’s to the kids, I hope they one day can accomplish great things to save our planet and our bodies that have for so long been abused. But my suggestion is this, our school lunches in public school are garbage! We as parents have a choice, don’t let our children buy or eat them-if we make their lunches at home we have the control as to the chemicals they are exposed to and the quality of their food. My daughter goes to a montessori school and there is no hot lunch program, that means every child must bring there lunch from home. If we as parents stop buying the hot lunch at the public schools, than the cost to keep the program won’t be there and as with all budget cuts I feel hot lunch should be cut before gym,art,music and things that actually benefit our kids, rather than harm them! Think about it parents-you have a choice!

  3. Gladys August 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    Great post-At least school kids are starting to understand -hope they stop feeding them junk in school-A healthy meal for goodness sake!

  4. Clay Boggess August 17, 2010 at 4:21 am #

    It sounds like this makes sense for a multitude of reasons. Once you have paid for the one time expense of the reusable trays they will pay for themselves many times over. Come on adults, step up and be logical! This is a no-brainer.

  5. Lori @ Groovy Green Livin August 30, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    What a great idea! I am going to see how this fits in in our school system. I have to be honest-i have no idea what type of trays they are currently using. Certainly worth looking into!

  6. betz White August 31, 2010 at 7:55 am #

    We live in Montgomery Co. and our school uses the same hideous trays. I am so inspired by Piney Branch! I showed my 5th grader their video and he is anxious to bring it up to the other members of the school’s green team. Thank you for sharing this!

  7. Diane MacEachern September 2, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    Great comments. Thanks, everyone! It’s inspiring to see young people getting behind sustainability – but then, if you’re their role models, we shouldn’t be surprised.

  8. Eblaze February 23, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Love to hear an update on this. Recycling rates are mentioned – but don’t be fooled. Americans are horrible at all types of recycling. Plastic bottles are recycled at a rate of 22% – meaning 78% is disposed of (140 million bottles a day). Kids are likely the solution. My company provides customized stainless steel bottles for school fundraising efforts – Check us out.

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