Opinion: Free lunches lead to increased food waste

OPINION BY NATALIE MAHER

Wadsworth High school is facing bigger problems in the school cafeteria than the traditional “mystery meat.” Because of the free school lunches this year due to COVID, there has been an increase of wasted and thrown out food in the cafeteria.

On October 19 of last year, the Ohio Department of Education released the statement that they got approval for free lunches to carry over into the 2020-2021 school year. While this is a good thing, it has led to a lot of wasted food in the cafeteria.

“I’ve seen a bunch of kids in my lunch throw away their lunch,” said sophomore Nathan Hurrle. “They legit throw their whole tray in the trash can.”

Any student is now able to get a free lunch provided by the school, but in order to get this free lunch, they are required to get the whole lunch. They are not able to ask for only the french fries, only the milk or only the pizza. In order to be considered a lunch, the meal must include an entree, side and drink. If they do only get one item, even if it is included in that day’s lunch, they have to pay for that singular item.

Students are now getting entire lunches for one singular item. The rest of the lunch gets merely thrown out by the student. This is a problem.

In years past, lunches were wasted but not to this extent. It is natural for some students to be less reluctant to throw out certain parts of a lunch because they needed to pay for it. Now, it is free. That respect for the money put in is gone because it is not their own.

“Personally, I have never seen someone get a lunch for one item and throw the rest away, but I’m sure it happens,” said junior Sydney Goodson. “I think people are definitely more careless with their food now than they were when they had to pay for it.”

INFOGRAPHICS BY MICAH BECK

Trash cans are now getting almost completely full in one lunch period. While this may not seem to be an uncommon occurrence, it must be taken into account that due to COVID, students are spaced out with only three max to a table.

Some students are taking advantage of the free lunches by getting it and actually finishing it in its entirety.

“I’ve seen a lot more people buying lunches [and] I’ve seen people eat the whole lunch,” said junior Celia Lambert.

A way this problem could be solved is by limiting the amount of times each student can go through the line once, and then only get one portion of the item free, which would help cut down on the amount of wasted food getting thrown out.

Ensuring every student eats during the school day is very important, but the free lunch program and the way that it is set up is doing more harm than good because of the rules surrounding the program.

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