Story by Tricia Edgar
Back to school means back to school lunches. Whether you’re a student, teacher, or a parent, you hold the possibility of a food revolution in that lunch box. Make lunch the most important meal of the day by making it more than sustainable.
1. Go for litter-free, reusable packaging
If you need to do back to school shopping, shop for something that will last. The stainless steel Klean Kanteen water bottle is lightweight and comes in many different sizes for longer walks or snack time. Choose reusable lunch boxes like metal tiffins from To Go Ware, Lunchbots, or Laptop Lunches. For sandwich wrappers, look to reusable, washable, velcro-tabbed sandwich sacks. Abeego sells a lovely, beeswax-infused sandwich wrap that’s easy to wipe down and is a brilliant alternative to plastic wrap.
2. Pack snacks in their own wrappers
Fruits and vegetables have peels for a reason. Those tough outer coverings help protect them from the elements, such as the challenging environment of the school lunch bag. If your child takes a snack outdoors for recess and that snack is in a bag, it’s easy to lose the bag on the playground and contribute to the masses of plastic waste that surround schools. Instead, choose a snack that has its own wrapper, such as an apple or a banana.
3. Plan a litter-free lunch day (or week, or month)
Challenge students to create the smallest amount of litter possible, and measure or weigh classroom garbage bags to see what class was up to the challenge. Ontario’s Recycling Council has a helpful list of resources for teachers or parents looking to start a lunch challenge at school.
4. Hold a fundraiser that helps families go litter-free
Want an ethical, environmentally-conscious fundraiser? Sell the supplies that will set up students to go litter free. Companies like Lunchskins offer school fundraiser packages to help your students reduce plastic bag waste and raise funds for the school as well.
5. Grow a school garden
School gardens need the support of students, teachers, parents, and other helpers from the community as well. They can be as small as a few planters hanging from a fence, or you can start your own urban farm! In Vancouver, Fresh Roots Urban Farm does just that, growing market gardens at schools around the Vancouver area. Do you need some support to begin turning your school grounds into an edible oasis? The Edible Schoolyard Project is jam-packed with resources, including a searchable database of lesson plans.
6. Get composting!
Once lunch is done, what happens to the waste? Don’t waste it: homegrown compost is a great way to create soil for a school garden project, and in-class worm bins are a ready-made science experiment as well. The Resourceful Schools Project has an easy-to-follow set of instructions that will help you set up a classroom worm bin.
7. Connect with local farmers
Farm to school programs connect schools and local farms, bringing a tasty education in food systems to your school. If you’re in the United States, check out the National Farm to School Network to find a program near you. Bring local, sustainable food into school cafeterias, and freeze, dry, and can food at home to incorporate local food into your child’s lunch all year round. When it comes to connecting with local farmers, opportunities abound, from field trips to cooking classes to apprenticeships for high school students.
By choosing to go litter free, connecting to the land through a garden, and connecting to your food community through farm to school programs, lunch can become a vital part of the curriculum. What we eat fuels our learning, but it can also be an important part of learning in itself.
Photo: (Featured Image): Fruit and vegetable ambassadors sample vegetables. Image Credit: USDAgov / CC by 2.0