By Francine Thompson
Imagine walking into Bonita Vista’s cafeteria, smelling the freshly-baked breadsticks and entrees such as cheeseburgers and pizza. You hurriedly march to the counter to retrieve your meal behind other hungry Barons and see ten paper trays of food and side options to choose from and thank the cafeteria employee for preparing your lunch. Now, out of nowhere, you grab four of those ten trays full of food and just throw them into the trash.
That would be an odd scenario, right? Taking perfectly good food and simply throwing it away without a second thought? Of course it would be, but that is what America does every year. We throw away 40 percent of our food yearly. That means nearly half of our fresh-farmed produce, home-cooked meals, and pre-packaged lunches end up rotting away in a landfill. Some of this food, like the greens and skins of fruits and veggies, is composted, but not to a degree nearly large enough to tip the scale from garbage to fertilizer.
Food waste is a serious issue, both economically and environmentally at multiple national and local levels. According to EndFoodWasteNow.org, on average, high schools waste about 30 to 35 percent of their food yearly and nearly 550 pounds each day. That means that Bonita Vista cafeteria employees could essentially throw out 500 of the lunches they make everyday because that food inevitably ends up in the trash regardless. Also given the fact that school lunches in the Sweetwater Union High School District are $2.50 each, Bonita Vista is seeing $1,250 of its budget at the bottom of a garbage can daily (yes, that totals to almost a quarter of a million dollars each school year).
But why should you care, right? You eat what you want from your cafeteria lunch and throw the rest out. You walk away full and happy. However, food waste is a more complex topic than it first appears. It might seem like just an apple or a spicy chicken sandwich in the trash, but it is also dozens of other things: thousands in money lost, pounds added to local landfills, harmful chemicals spewed up into the air by the garbage trucks that have to come collect our scraps. Those are just some of the negative effects of wasting food, not including all of the other environmental and socioeconomic impacts it can have.
Over the next month The Crusader will be investigating about Bonita Vista’s food waste in-depth – that is how much we waste, what type of things we waste, and what we can all do about it.
Infographic by Francine Thompson using Infogr.am