Despite the amount of unopened food being thrown away in Clarke County School District schools, the school district does not permit for unopened food that would otherwise be thrown away to be mass collected and repurposed. CCSD school nutrition coordinator Hillary Savage claims it is the student’s responsibility to not waste food despite the required tray items and sign banning the removal of cafeteria food from the premises. “We don’t want anyone coming through and doing mass collections from refused items,” Savage said. “Ultimately the item should not be taken if they’re not meant to be consumed. The student decides whether they are consumed at meal service or consumed later.” Photo by Mackenzie Caudill.
Despite the significant amount of unopened food thrown away in the cafeterias of Clarke County School District schools, the district does not allow mass collection for repurposing.
In 2013, the Clarke County School District switched over to the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) to be able to provide free meals for all students.
This switch was beneficial to many low-income families in the CCSD, but the new requirements for meals to include an array of food groups in your meal cause a significant amount of food to be thrown away.
Despite this, the county will not allow school organizations, or anyone for that matter, to mass collect unopened, packaged food for redistribution. Considering the CCSD’s high poverty rate, which is arguably the reason we switched to CEP in the first place, why shouldn’t we be able to provide students in need with food that would otherwise be thrown away?
According to CCSD school nutrition coordinator Hillary Savage, CEP requires a student’s meal to be reimbursable to the county. To ensure this requirement is met, the cashier will ask students to get another item if they don’t have enough on their tray.
This forces students to get items they don’t want to consume. No one eats the cheese sticks. No one eats the apples. But students are forced to have them on their tray, so they are thrown away. Every day.
Savage claims the item shouldn’t be taken if it is not meant to be consumed. She also claims that it is the student’s responsibility to either consume the product at meal service or save the food for later.
This would be a plausible argument if students weren’t forced to meet the county’s reimbursable requirements. This would be a plausible argument if there wasn’t a large sign on the doors to the cafeteria reading ‘No food or drink beyond this point. Thank you!’
The reality is, if students don’t want it they will throw it away. They won’t save it for later. We have students who don’t have enough food at home who do consume their reimbursable lunches. For the students don’t, why can’t we save that food from being wasted and provide struggling families with much-needed help?
As long as the food is safe to consume, there is no reason a school organization shouldn’t be allowed to pick up discarded, unopened food in the cafeteria that would otherwise be thrown away and redistribute it to students in need. So, why are we wasting food?