Boring lunches are out, modern lunches are in. Long gone are the days of questionable pans of food, replaced instead with nutritious made-from-scratch meals and tantalizing grab-n-go options. Bento boxes are traditionally used by Japanese schoolchildren, but the concept eventually made its way stateside. Commonly found at grocery stores and Starbucks, these boxes are compartmentalized with different proteins, carbs, vegetables or fruit.
Sabrina Bilski, Director of Nutrition Services at Valders Area School District in Valders, Wis., was inspired to test offering bento boxes for their elementary and high school students. When they took off in popularity, Bilski looked for a way to be more sustainable.
“We were doing bento-style lunches for quite a while and we were using throwaway, single-use plastic and I couldn’t stand it. We would use a 4-compartment plastic container with a lid and it still wouldn’t fit everything you needed,” said Bilski. “It’s a lot of money to buy that kind of stuff and you’re just throwing it out.”
She looked for reusable options online and found Cambro Meal Delivery Trays.
“I looked specifically for [Meal Delivery Trays] and ended up ordering more when Covid hit because a lot of schools had to transition into feeding in the classroom and open lunch trays didn’t really work well for that. I just couldn’t sleep at night thinking about how many disposable to-go boxes we would have to use on a daily basis,” said Bilski. According to Bilski, she used 100 containers five days a week, with each container ringing up at 30 cents. Every week, Bilski was spending $150 on containers and regularly contributing waste to local landfills.
“Believe it or not, [the students] really care about sustainability as well. There are actually comments by all grades, ‘I’m glad we don’t have to just throw away single-use plastic’.”
Bilski liked the Cambro design specifically because they were able to include a napkin and fork inside the container and easily stack them on top of each other. Some of their most popular breakfast and lunch boxes include chicken salad, yogurt, French toast or cheese with crackers.
“[The boxes are] very popular because there are a lot of kids that take lunch that want a cold lunch option,” said Bilski. “Kids love finger foods and that’s a lot of the things you can put in those boxes. They also have limited amount of time to eat, so anything that can make their eating experience quicker is always a plus for them and they definitely appreciate it.”
Contact your local Cambro sales rep to learn how Cambro products can help make your school foodservice program more sustainable.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ADRIANA DESIDERIO IS THE DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER AT CAMBRO.