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November 22, 2019

Incarnations Of Wasteful Spending

Cindy A. Rose

            I had a completely different column written for today.  It was in the que and ready to be posted when e-mails, facts and figures got in the way.  So, for now, I go in a tangentially related direction.

            As it was, today I had lunch with my granddaughter at her elementary school.  Her school participates in the Lunch Out of Landfills composting program that is currently being piloted in several of our schools.

            After watching for 30 or so minutes the amount of uneaten food being dumped into a compost bin, I cannot come up with a single reason why any Frederick County Public School has a child in need of a meal.  Not only that, I cannot come up with a single good reason why any of our schools have outstanding lunch debt?

            An elementary school lunch cost $2.65 a meal. I saw an estimated 30 meals in the compost bin in my brief encounter.  That’s $79.50 in food that was available to be eaten, but was thrown away because a child didn’t want it.

            I don’t blame the children throwing away perfectly good food.  Students must choose a fruit, and a vegetable to go with their entrée. I watched untouched orange after untouched orange being thrown into the compost bin.

            The salads I saw looked fresh, delicious and larger than I would expect for the tiny bodies carrying them to their seats.  Much of it ended up in the compost bin.

            The bin contained whole slices of pizza, sandwich halves, uneaten rolls, green beans, salad fixings, half eaten apples and whole unpeeled oranges.

            I’m a gardener.  We compost the food scraps we have that don’t make their way to feeding a chicken, stray cat or meandering opossum.  Compost makes for great soil and helps the vegetables we grow all the more healthy.  It makes sense for our home to compost what we can.  It costs us nothing.  I’d go so far as to say it’s saved us some money on chicken feed and fertilizer.  There is a cost benefit.

            I’m skeptical when it comes to school composting.  It’s an expense our schools don’t need with little, if any benefit.  I don’t believe in wasting money as strongly as I don’t believe in man-made climate change. Neither do I believe there is enough methane coming from the local landfill to do any measurable harm.  I could post as many links against man-made climate change as those who believe could post for.  That’s not the reason for this column.

            My point is this.  FCPS is throwing away thousands of dollars in uneaten food every day all across the county.

            There are children in our schools whose parents make too much money to qualify for Free and Reduced Meals (FARM).  There are families in our county who don’t qualify for FARM and have a hard time feeding their families. 

            After seeing the waste in a 30 minute time frame, I refuse to believe we can’t feed every student in our schools without any of them incurring a debt.

            If my math is correct, at this one school during one lunch period I saw an estimated $79 worth of food go into the trash.  $79 x 5 = $395 per day x 3 lunch periods is $1,185 every day.  $1,185 for 180 days of school is a whopping $213,300 of wasted food from ONE school.  We have 67.

            Even if my estimate is high, cut it in half, it’s still over $100,000 of wasted food.  Cut it in fourths that’s still $50,000.

            Someone please explain why Frederick County Public Schools is allowing $8,000 of lunch debt to sit on the books while it is not only wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on food that is being thrown away, it is PAYING for that food to be hauled away?

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