Saturday, April 7, 2018

Food Waste & Student Breakfast

One day last week I subbed at the high school and was surprised at how many students stopped at the local Hardees or Sonic and brought food and drinks to school.

There were seven students in a class of 21 students who brought breakfast from a fast food establishment, which is 33% of the students in that class.

I understand why the students do this, but the high school offers FREE breakfast and lunch to ALL students.

Students have their choice of milk (fat free, 2%, or chocolate) and orange juice, and usually two food items, sometimes more, to choose from.

This day they were offered biscuit, sausage, gravy,  mandarin oranges, orange juice, and choice of milk. 

As I sat there, before school started, eating my breakfast from home of cottage cheese with blueberries, I wonder if some of the students realize the expense that eating out can add up to over the course of a month or year.

Some of them have not learned or had the financial lessons that other students have had at their young age. 

One of the bad things about free breakfast is that some students throw away perfectly good food and drinks. They are not forced to get everything that is offered, but some of them do and then throw away perfectly fine containers of milk and orange juice.

The custodians tried to rescue these unopened milk and orange juice containers, but were told by administration to stop this practice. 

I did rescue one chocolate milk and three orange juices on the day I subbed after stopping two students from throwing them away right in front of me. And, other students wanted those items I rescued, which made me happy.

I've watched in disbelief as some students get breakfast and throw it away untouched and unopened. Oftentimes these students will only go to breakfast to sit with their friends and socialize, not wanting any of the food.

And it's an unspoken rule at the high school that there is a bowl at the end of the food line where students can put their orange juice or milk if they don't want it, and any student who wants one can take one, but that is frowned upon at the elementary and middle schools. And even with this, students still throw away unopened milk and orange juice. 

The middle school doesn't even allow students to take any food out of the cafeteria even if it is unopened. If they did it would eliminate some of this food waste.

It's food waste plain and simple and it makes me sad to see such waste. We try and work hard to avoid food waste in our home. I wish that were true at the school as well.
~ Living within our Means ~

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”


  1. Forty years ago, the city decided they would offer free lunches to all children regardless of the parents' income. Lots of us swim team mothers saw a good thing and participated. My two-year-old could not eat much but would be hungry later. I was not allowed to take any of it home for her or the two older children. They were all served a full tray of food with no choices or the choice of getting less. Mothers were not allowed to eat one bite of food. Okay, I ate nothing but I did sneak out an apple each day. I objected to all this nonsense, saying how it was a waste of food. But, apples, crackers, milk...all unopened had to go into the trash. It was such a sin.

    1. The custodian was saying the same thing, Linda, that is was a sinful waste of food. I know it breaks her heart to have to throw it away.

      What a terrible waste of food you witnessed there. It's just not right. I know I've watched students throw perfectly good food, some still in the wrappers, and just be horrified.

      When my own daughter was in elementary school I would put the oj in my pocket if she wasn't drinking it.

      This kind of waste is just sad and wrong. Many of these students are hungry later, just like your two year old, who wouldn't eat much, was back then.

  2. These stories just make my blood boil. There is serious need in this land of plenty, I can't tolerate food waste. Agree, the HS kids need a lesson in basic personal finance.

    1. Yes, Carol. I agree. They need to learn the value of a dollar.

  3. My daughter is fortunate at her school they are ok with savin gfood items for later, and as long as they take th eminimum, it meets the school lunch plan and the ala carte rates are not charged-but watch out how the price rises. She often keeps a piece of fruit, a rice krispy bar, something storable for after school. She also has friends with healthy appetites so has said little gets wasted, but does see the wate elsewhere.

    1. That is terrific, Sam. I'm so glad to hear a positive story about this topic. Thank you for sharing. :)

  4. The whole food program makes my, as CTMOM said, blood boil. The waste and mismanagement is deplorable. I'd like to see it scrapped, and put back to local control. I know that's unpopular, but the federal lunch program is a huge waste of money, and, at least in my district, is not doing a good job of feeding the hungry in our community. In the elementary school years, there were parents who were happy they got free lunch, because they could spend that money on other stuff--stuff, not food. I know, I know, you can't prioritize somebody's values, but you can bet that I see that I could provide my kids a school lunch before I'd buy them, say, a dirt bike. I think the entitlement/wastefulness mentality is passed down to these kids from parents who never understood personal finance, so I am not holding out hope that they will change.
    As for the waste, as the kids say, "I can't EVEN." Our schools all have separate bins at the end of the line for fruit, packaged foods, and a cooler for cartons of beverages that the kids don't want. Then, others are free to take what's in these bins. Usually, though, it's the teachers, though my son has grabbed a few packages of things like graham crackers. I don't think, though, that technically, they are allowed to have this.

    1. I was reading about this topic earlier, Meg. One view said that some parents were happy about the program because they could spend that money on other stuff. Like paying towards something the family needed like rent or utilities.

      I have to wonder if this mentality to throw away good food will hurt these children in the future and actually helps to create this entitlement attitude we see today. I don't know the answers, but see this as part of the problem.

      I know at the high school here the teachers are not allowed to pick items out of the free bins, which is also not right.

      It is very frustrating.

    2. Oh, I meant the presence of the bins/cooler is not, technically, allowed. It started one year in an elementary school here, (lucky for me, ours) where the principal is just a straight forward, no nonsense, common sense woman. Within one year of her taking over that school, she had the supply lists whittled away to the minimum, partly by implementing a system of returning/offering to students, then storing supplies at the end of the year for the following year. The bins in the cafeteria showed up soon after as well, and the other schools copied it. All common sense stuff, no?

    3. Definitely common sense, Meg. They are not allowed here either, but I know they do it at the high school. I think it's great that it's allowed there, which is as it should be everywhere. :)

  5. I know in past years, not sure about now, when the city schools were beginning a week long break they would send the extra milk to the food pantry. It was very much appreciated by the pantry and the clients who received food or ate their dinner there.

    1. Oh wow, that is great, Mary Lou. I hope they are still doing that. :)

  6. This is so frustrating. At the school where I work, I often pull food out of the bins in class. Kids just throw it away too, completely intact, fruit and other packaged items. I can’t see it simply thrown out, so I scratch around for it. It’s not a problem here, thank goodness. If it was, I’d do it anyway,

  7. When I was in elementary school my best friend's dad was the custodian. Then, as now, some kids threw away much of their hot lunch.

    Every September her dad would buy a baby pig for 50 cents. He'd then feed that pig on the lunches that schoolkids threw away. He did have to buy *some* food, for weekends and school vacations and, I believe, as the animal got bigger and wouldn't be satisfied with what he brought home. But by June he'd have a decent-sized hog almost for free, which he'd take to a guy he knew who would butcher the animal in exchange for a share of the meat.

    Waste not, want not.

    Oh, and my sister was the custodian for a private school for two of her teenage years. She'd bring home a bunch of those little cartons of milk children had declined to drink. This was a nice budget boost for our family of six. I remember making a lot of rice pudding.

  8. What a great story about the pig, Donna. That's great that your sister was able to bring those home from the private school. :)

  9. When I had chickens, I did not buy food other than Quaker Oats. I went to several free church lunches and brought home food scraps, often enough for three days from each of three lunches. I gave a produce stand owner eggs and he gave me boxes of overly ripe produce or tomatoes with a hole in it or a bruise. I could even eat some of that produce. When I went out to dinner or lunch and paid for it, I brought home our leftovers in a doggy bag which was a chicken bag. I would ask people who were eating at KFC for their scraps.

    I got eggs and pest control and amusement from my chickens.

    1. That's great, Linda. I love that you traded eggs for produce, that's a great way to save money. I'm sure the produce stand owner love having fresh eggs. And chickens can be so easy to feed like you mentioned. They will eat a large variety of items.

      We loved having chickens. Mine would eat a watermelon whole, rind and all. I would come home from work and open my car door and they would run up to me for a snack. I loved having chickens. :)


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