School Lunch? What Is It Served On?

I was reading a Lunch Lady book to the boys last night (she’s a school cafeteria cook who doubles as a crime fighter). Near the end, in a scene in the school kitchen, her assistant says, “OK, Lunch Lady, the last tray has been cleaned!”

“Wait, what?” asked Max.

“‘The last tray has been cleaned,’” I repeated. “All the trays are clean.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“They washed the trays. The trays are clean,” I repeated, thinking, wow, we’re tired. I continued reading but could sense he was still distracted by the tray thing. “They have to clean everything, to clean up the kitchen. That includes the trays.” He eats lunch in the cafeteria every day. Why is he so mystified about the cleaning of those melamine trays?

Ah. Because it turns out they do not use the reusable trays. After some confusing back-and-forth, I discovered that at his school, they throw out the lunch trays. Seriously? All the trays, every day? Disposable??

“What are they made of?” I asked him.

“Foam,” he said. He never buys lunch, by the way, for many reasons, but Ben does, and I generally have been OK with that (the menu is decent).

“Foam? Really?”

“Yes. Why are you surprised?”

“Who uses styrofoam these days?” I said. (Actually, they are probably polystyrene, it turns out.) “I would have expected they’d be cardboard, so at least be they’d be compostable or recyclable!”

It looks like Ben will be getting packed lunches for a while until I can confirm this and see if we can change it.

I know there are many things we can put our energy into, school-wise (longer lunch breaks! more recess time! Recess before lunch! A more diverse kindergarten curriculum!), but this is a big one for me. It is 2015, and we’re still teaching our kids to use and throw out styrofoam (or, OK, polystyrene)? I guess this is a hot-button issue for me. We pack almost all their food in reusable containers. We recycle a ton (and used to compost, though it’s hard in our current place). We support a small farm through our CSA.

Does your kids’ school use disposable lunch trays? Do you know what they’re made of?

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