A lunch time dilemma

School has little choice but to throw away food every day


Stu Mair

According to FDA laws, cafeteria food cannot be donated which leads to 100-150 servings of food wasted per day.

On average, the cafeteria throws away between 100-150 servings of food per day. In a world where famine is rampant, this may seem wasteful. However there is currently nothing that can be done that hasn’t already been attempted.

“Depending on what the leftover items are, we will try to save what we can, but it generally gets thrown away,” cafeteria manager Jackie Palovik said. “Maybe 20-30 servings are thrown away per line on a good day.”

Good is a subjective word here as cafeteria workers are put into a tough situation: they want to save as much food as possible, but also need to make sure that students are well-fed and that the food is new and fresh.

“There are certain restrictions on how long we can leave out cooked food,” cafeteria worker Gloria Vallao said. “It’s regulated by the FDA.”

As much food as possible is saved but the amount varies daily.

Maybe 20-30 servings are thrown away per line on a good day.

— cafeteria manager Jackie Palovik

“We throw about 50 servings of french fries out per line, other then that we try to save as much as we can, there’s not really a fixed amount,” cafeteria worker Rebecca Lustberg said. “We save the taco meat, rice, chicken, queso, refried beans, pretty much everything in the southwest line, all of the burgers, chicken tenders; there are a lot of things that we don’t throw away. We’ll save it one day and serve it the next, and if it’s something that doesn’t get sold all the way through, we’ll throw it away.”

Throwing away the food is probably not anybody’s first choice, but it can’t be given away either.

“It’s illegal to donate to food pantries,” Lustberg said. “We are not able to donate our food; if it doesn’t sell then it gets thrown away.”

Ultimately the amount of food wasted depends on what students want.

“Every day our numbers change for the amount of food we save, and it varies day to day,” Palovik said. “I had the same number today and yesterday and it all depends on what the kids want to eat.”