The lunchroom is a huge part of a green school audit, because there are plenty of cafeteria areas that can usually be made more sustainable, it doesn’t take much to get a greener cafeteria going and this is an area that really matters for kids.
After all, your children eat day in and day out at school, why not make sure it’s healthy and green?
Green School Cafeteria Audit Checklist:
- Is the food healthy or junk? School food, in many areas is outstandingly unhealthy. However, you really don’t know if you’re not there right? You need to go have lunch with your child. Ask yourself if you’d eat the food being served to your child. If not, changes need to be made stat. Is the school serving local or organic food? Do they serve veggies or simply french fries? Is there nothing but pizza or chicken nuggets day in and day out? Do they have vegetarian choices? Do they serve flavored high-sugar milk?
- Is the packaging used during lunch recycled when lunch ends? Are there plenty of recycling bins in the lunchroom, and do kids, along with staff, know how to use them?
- Does the cafeteria use old-school plastic trays that will end up in a landfill or better, eco-friendly trays.
- What kind of utensils and other eating items are used? Paper plates? Plastics? Loads of non-recyclable paper napkins? Styrofoam (gasp). Is there real silverware – not plastic?
- Are leftovers being thrown in a compost for a school garden? Do kids, teachers, and staff at your school even know how to compost?
- Is food safely served? Is food kept in proper cold and hot containers? You’d think someone else would take care of this but not all schools have food safety reviews.
- Do students get a proper amount of time to eat lunch? For example, some students get just 20 minutes – not long enough to develop good eating habits.
- Are kids who bring their lunch getting a good deal? Are they bringing a new paper sack each day? Should there be information made available for parents about how to pack healthier, greener packed lunches?
- Are real lights used in the cafeteria or does your school utilize window light or other more sustainable lighting?
HOW TO START CREATING CHANGE IN A BAD CAFETERIA:
It’s one thing to do an audit, but what if your school is not up to snuff? Following are some resources that can help you create change in the cafeteria.
- Appetite for Change – an Organic Consumers Association kids’ lunch project – tons of resources.
- Possible barriers to organic food in the lunchroom.
- 7 steps to a green school – not cafeteria specific, but a good overall coverage of how to get a school on board with greener projects.
- How to start a school compost program.
- Start a successful cafeteria recycling program (pdf).
- Top 6 ways to create change in your school cafeteria.
- Ideas about eco-friendly school trays.
- Many ideas for green school cooking, gardens, serving and composting.
- Five Cool Programs Making School Lunch Better.
- Buy Local Food and Farm Toolkit (pdf) – offers step-by-step instructions on how to get sustainable food in a school.
- Resources for bringing organics to your school.
- Healthy recipes for schools.
- The Lunch Box – a wealth of plans, projects and ideas to help make your school cafeteria much healthier.
- Nourishing the Nation One Tray at a Time (pdf) Farm to School Initiatives.
- Awesome idea – The Edible Schoolyard!
- Environmental attributes of greener cafeterias.
- Sustainable lighting for schools.
- Learn about Farm to School food projects.
- Community Action to Change School Food Policy: An Organizing Kit (pdf)- excellent guide.
- Many tool kits to help create school food change.
- Get a salad bar in your school.
[farm food image © Paylessimages]