Cutting down on food waste is a goal in most kitchens for both environmental and monetary reasons. However, some schools aren’t just looking to save money because they want to—budget cuts to their nutrition services departments mean they have to. After Spokane Public Schools’ nutrition services budget was cut by $1.5 million, there was no choice but to make some big changes.
This school year, all 36 of the elementary schools within Spokane Public Schools will use Cambro Camwear 9-inch plates to serve lunch to their students. They serve around 11,000 lunches a day, which equates to 70 percent participation.
Around five years ago, Doug Wordell, Director of Nutrition Services at Spokane Public Schools, says one of their schools began noticing a lot of elementary school-aged kids were taking more food than they were actually eating. Plus, with the rise of scratch-cooking in schools, one principal remarked, “You know what we’d really rather have a plate. We just want to make it look more like home, more of a homestyle meal.”
In response, Wordell tested out Cambro’s plates at a Montessori school in the district.
“[We] found out kids managed it well, it looked good, the food—especially on a black plate—the colors of the food really jumped out. It displayed well, kids ate well, and it seemed like the custodians shared, ‘you know, gosh, there’s a little less garbage going in the garbage can,’ so whether they’re eating more or just taking more appropriate size portions for them, it seemed to work.”
Wordell slowly began adding more schools to the test each year, and after seeing solid success with eight schools during the 2018 school year, he felt comfortable expanding to all of the elementary schools in the district.
“We’re hoping this is another win-win where we display good food for kids, it’s a reasonable product, but help manage and maybe limit our food cost,” said Wordell.
In addition to decreasing food waste and saving money, Wordell is very passionate about their scratch-cooking program and hopes the plates will unit all three of these initiatives.
“We’re hoping and believing that this really displays the meal better. We’re trying to display and model homestyle cooking. It’s about modeling good food, modeling good eating habits and, in addition to that, it seems like it’s going to help us manage our food costs or manage waste more effectively.”
Scratch-cooking in schools has been trending for the last few years. Not only does it increase the quality and appearance of school meals, it goes along with a school’s desire to make students feel more at home. A study by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics actually found that “scratch-cooking can be a cost-effective way to expand the variety of healthy school lunches prepared with USDA Foods.”
Sounds like Wordell and his team are on the right track. Try our Camwear Dinnerware Plate Calculator to see how your operation could start saving money today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ADRIANA DESIDERIO IS THE DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER AT CAMBRO.