Respond to testimony alleging that a significant amount of food is wasted in school cafeterias. How much food is discarded? What happens to food that has been prepared when schools close as a result of weather emergencies?
BUDGET PAGE REFERENCE: Chapter 8-99
In elementary schools, cafeteria managers are responsible for placing food orders and use past production information as a guide to determine quantities of food to order. Students select lunch entrées in the morning. This information is then utilized by cafeteria staff to determine the number and type of entrée items that need to be prepared. Entrées that are not heated remain under refrigeration or frozen so they may be used at a later date.
In secondary schools, cafeteria managers produce food orders according to historical information. If extra items are produced, entrées may be heated for one additional time, as long as the quality is still acceptable. Accompaniments to the entrée, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and milk are refrigerated and then served the following day.
Students who purchase school lunches are required to select at least three of five available menu items, one of which must be a fruit or vegetable. To limit the amount of food waste, students are discouraged from selecting additional items if their intention is not to consume them. However, if a student selects three items and does not wish to consume any of them, most schools have “share” tables where these items can be placed. Any student who wishes to select a “share” table item is free to do so. In general, most waste in the cafeterias is made up of partially eaten food items and milk containers that contain small amounts of milk.
In the event of weather emergencies, meals for elementary schools would have already been delivered the day before. The meals are refrigerated and/or frozen and then served to students when school re-opens.
The Division of Food and Nutrition Services conducts focus groups with students to seek input and ideas for items that they would like to see on the menu. They are afforded the opportunity to taste and provide feedback on food items that could potentially be added to the menu. The goal is to provide healthy and appealing meals to students. This is an important process to reduce food waste and increase student participation in the school meals program.