Create waste-free lunches and reduce food waste

Creating waste-free lunches and reducing food waste is an important skill you can teach others.

What did you have for lunch today? How much of what you had was thrown away? Have you heard of a movement to create waste-free lunches? It’s happening in kitchens, schools and places of employment all over the world.

Waste-free lunch research shows schools that implement waste-free lunch programs reduce the cost of their trash bill, increase knowledge of environmental awareness and responsibility, and create sustainable recycling habits amongst staff, parents and kids.

If you’ve never heard of this, you’re probably wondering how it works. The concept is simple—pack a lunch that creates very little waste. This means that the items, aside from the food that is consumed, is reusable. According to Waste-Free Lunches website, you should consider:

  • Packing items in a reusable lunch container.
  • Using cloth napkins.
  • Packing stainless-steel forks and spoons.
  • Drinking containers that can be washed and reused.
  • Lunchboxes that can be reused.

So often we automatically pack items in lunches that are already portioned out or pre-packaged to be a serving size. However, by buying larger quantities of foods, we can package them ourselves into reusable containers, which reduces the amount of waste being generated.

According to “Guide to Conducting Student Food Waste Audits: A Resource for Schools,” in 2015 the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the U.S.’s first-ever national food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50 percent reduction by 2030. Food loss and waste is generated from farm to fork, including in schools and households. As a result, the food waste audit guide was created to help educate students about the amount of food they waste in their school cafeterias and to encourage them to reduce waste and eat more nutritious foods. The guide has a plethora of information to help schools learn how to best reduce food-waste. The concepts are also applicable to reducing home food-waste.

For additional information from Michigan State University Extension about reducing food waste, please read:

Reducing food waste and creating waste-free lunches is a skill! You may not have thought about it in that way, but youth who work on this skill practice using sound judgement, are responsible and find ways to conserve resources.

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