Food Fight: Students need to tackle school food waste


Lena Pearson

Student throws away untouched piece of fruit.

Lena Pearson, Opinion Writer

If you have ever purchased lunch in the cafeteria, chances are you’ve been reminded to grab a healthy option before checking out. Some students are content with a singular slice of pizza as a meal, but there are certain nutritional standards that must be met in each school lunch due to national laws. Although it is with good intention, these requirements ultimately lead to a significant amount of food waste in schools daily.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010, championed by Michelle Obama, was a monumental legislation in the improvement of school lunches in America. The act requires that schools serve more fruits and vegetables, as well as foods with a higher nutritional value, allowing for each student to have a healthy and balanced meal. The HHFKA experienced a roaring success after its passage, with more than 95% of school districts following the cafeteria protocol. However, after over a decade of the HHFKA’s implementation, more stress has been placed on simply fulfilling the lunch program requirements rather than ensuring that students are truly getting the nutrients they need. There is no additional cost for having a healthy side with your lunch, yet many refuse to indulge in the fresh produce that the cafeteria has to offer.

With the number of students who buy school lunch every day, I can’t begin to imagine the amount of produce that is wasted by the end of the week. There have been countless instances in which I have seen students throwing away untouched fruit immediately after going through the lunch line and leaving with only the food that they wanted. Often, the fruit doesn’t even make it to the trash and ends up on the ground outside, creating more laborious work for our custodians. Even if it’s “impractical” to peel an orange at lunch or you feel that there isn’t enough time to do so, that doesn’t mean you should resort to destroying it or throwing it away. Regardless of the reasoning, the blatant waste of completely edible food that someone else may need is disappointing to see and needs to end.

Wasted fruit litters campus. (Lena Pearson)

Whether you’re no longer hungry from your main course or fruit just isn’t your favorite, I urge you to consider other options before mindlessly throwing away perfectly good food.

1. Ask around- Are any of your friends hungry? Is there someone around you who would appreciate the food more than the trash can?

2. Save it for later- Just because you aren’t hungry at the moment doesn’t mean the food is inedible. Bring it home with you and enjoy it later.

3. Repurpose it- If you don’t want the fruit that you received at lunch, find a new use for it. Take something that would have been wasted and turn it into a delicious dessert instead.

4. Compost it- If all else fails, give back to Mother Nature. Although discarding good food isn’t ideal, consider this step before reaching for the trash.

The amount of food waste on campus is a glaring issue, but as a community we can make a difference. Although controlling what is served in the cafeteria is out of students’ hands, using a new approach when dealing with unwanted food is the first step towards decreasing the waste at our school.