Urban School Food Alliance

Lunchrooms in the Atlanta district will switch to environmentally friendly trays

April 22, 2019
Parents group in the Atlanta area has been encouraging districts to use biodegradable trays in their food service operations.

Prompted by a group of parents in the Atlanta area concerned about the envrionment, some school districts say they are planning to use more environmentally friendly trays in their lunchrooms.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the 52,000-student Atlanta district plans next school year to replace plastic foam trays with biodegradable ones.

The district says it goes through about 8.4 million trays each year providing breakfast and lunch to students.

The switch will cost Atlanta Public Schools up to $500,000, and the new trays will be used in all but 11 charter schools that contract with other vendors for meal services.

The change will reduce the district’s carbon footprint and help the environment, says Marilyn Hughes, executive director of school nutrition.

In the nearby DeKalb County School District, two elementary schools — Fernbank and Sagamore Hills — already use biodegradable trays daily and also compost and recycle.

DeKalb officials are evaluating the cost of the pilot programs at the two schools.

The Gwinnett County district is aiming to start using biodegradable trays next school year, and those new trays would break down in a landfill within 90 days, spokesman Bernard Watson says.

Such changes are welcomed by parents who have formed the Atlanta Area Schools Sustainability Initiative, a group advocating for environmentally friendly practices.

“Every time I have lunch with my kids I cannot believe that in this era that there is Styrofoam,” says Joanna Kobylivker. “I hate the mixed messages that we give kids. We are telling them to be good stewards of this earth — to conserve, reuse, recycle — and twice a day they are eating on Styrofoam.”

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