GBHS’s food waste epidemic: Do free lunches mean extra waste?

Public schools in California are now offering free lunches, but in affluent areas like Granite Bay, this free food is turning into extra waste.


Eternity Martinez

The extra food at GBHS has led to more food waste and littering.

From 11:09 to 1:07 pm the number of lunch trays strewn across the campus of Granite Bay High School increases rapidly. In most of these trays the food remains practically untouched. 

California’s 30 percent increase in budgeting for public schools has given all 6.2 million students the opportunity to have free lunches. 

At 97.91 percent, Granite Bay has a significantly higher affluence percentile than the average city in California. 

This high affluence percentile is representative of GBHS’ historically low percentages of students on free and reduced lunch assistance. In 2016 GBHS was ranked 1,352nd out of 2,578

The increased demand and decreased workforce has impacted the food students see in their lunch trays.

“There are not as many people working anymore, and we also had to go from making about 350 lunches daily, to (now) over 1000,” food service worker Shalene Tirone said. “I see that students don’t have a variety to choose from anymore, they really only have two meals to choose from each day.” 

Along with the increase in free lunch production, administrators, lunch service workers and students have noticed an increase in food waste. 

Brandon Dolan, a senior at GBHS, recognizes the efforts of the staff and sympathizes with them. 

“It’s disappointing to see people disrespecting the lunches that the faculty puts in effort to provide for us,” Dolan said.

 The lunch choices being provided fluctuate every day. The menu includes: pizza, burritos, turkey deli’s, PB&Js, chicken sandwiches and cheeseburgers. 

Dolan believes that the main reason students are discarding their lunches is because they are bored of the options being offered, but there are several ways to prevent that. 

“I have a habit of making myself a lunch every night before school. It’s a responsibility of mine, and I encourage others to make it theirs,” Dolan said.  

He also proposed how he would go about handling the free lunch program if he was capable of making the decision. 

“This may seem harsh, but I think our school in particular should simply get rid of free lunches. I walk around the hallways, and just see boxes of food that have barely been touched,” Dolan said. 

However, since this does not adhere to the guidelines that have been given to schools, the assistant principal, Lisa Stanley, has worked with the students of GBHS for other possible methods to prevent food wastage. 

One of these methods was a plastic donation box. Students were given the ability to discard food that they did not want. Initially it did not seem like the box would be beneficial. As time elapsed the box began filling up drastically. The amount it was being used by students was becoming overwhelming. 

“We tried to get the food into the right locations so that individuals could utilize it, and it could be accessible to those people,”  Stanley said. “The downside to that though was, it was actually almost too successful for a single person to manage.” 

Although the redistribution of food throughout the district became too cumbersome for a small administrative team, Stanley pushes students of GBHS to help discourage the wastage of food. 

“I would certainly welcome any groups or clubs that want to help redirect these non-perishable items towards people that need them,” Stanley said. 

Last year, a few groups of kids expressed their concerns regarding food wastage, and this year it is more necessary than ever for individuals to speak out and help their community.             

“Small changes make a tremendous impact.” Stanley said.

After lunch, many of GBHS’s trashcans overflow with leftovers. (Saihaj Cheema)