Will kids eat their fruits and vegetables simply because they’re told to?
Unfortunately not. So while there’s the good news that school lunches are healthier than ever under Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (which helps fight childhood obesity), the bad news is that even if the lunch lady piles the peas and carrots onto every tray (instead of French fries), picky eaters will just end up throwing them away.
We’ve mentioned before that 40 percent of food in this country gets thrown away (to the tune of $165 billion in wasted costs), and uneaten school food is naturally a part of this problem.
MORE: This Video Shows Precisely How Much Food We Waste and Why We Do it
To tackle this wasteful and expensive issue, many schools across the country are now utilizing a green solution to turn something unwanted into something valuable: Composting.
The New York Times reports that more than 230 schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island are taking part in New York City’s composting program that turns unwanted scraps into nutrient-rich soil.
It starts in the cafeteria, where kids sort their food into all the appropriate waste bins. The students at Public School 30 in Staten Island, for example, toss their trash (plastic bags, foam cups and wrappers) into containers for landfill garbage and recyclables (metal, glass, plastic and milk cartons), and put their food scraps and liquids in compost containers. The food is then picked up by city sanitation trucks and taken to a compost heaps Staten Island, upstate New York, or Delaware. From there, the waste decomposes into all-natural mulch that is then sold to farmers and landscape architects.
This plan works because not only are these students learning how to recycle and conserve food, but also because the whole process saves the city $10 to $50 per ton of garbage. Last year, it cost NYC $93 per ton to dump garbage in landfills.
Based on the success of the composting program (it’s expected to reach all five of the Big Apple’s boroughs by this fall, with a larger goal to eventually expand to all 1,300-plus schools) it only seems obvious that more schools in the nation should start their own food waste initiatives. Already, school districts in Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago have their own similar composting programs.
As P.S. 30 assistant principal Joseph Napolitano told the Times, “[The food is] really being recycled whether they eat it or not; it’s not really a waste.”
Getting kids to eat healthy might be a food fight for the ages, but, hey, if we can’t teach them how to enjoy fruits and vegetables, at least they can learn how to dispose of them properly.