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stainless steel trays with lunches in them

In an effort to further reduce the amount of trash generated at AUSD school sites, Bay Farm School is piloting a reuseable dinnerware program. The program will expand to Love and Paden Elementary Schools later this winter.


In an effort to further reduce the amount of trash generated at AUSD school sites, Bay Farm School is piloting a reuseable dinnerware program.

Under the program, students will use reusable stainless steel trays, forks, and spoons instead of paper trays and plastic forks and spoons. Children put their used dishes in racks at the end of their lunch period; an outside company picks up the dirty dishes  every day and re-stocks the clean items.

Students at Salad Bar

Stopwaste, a county agency that promotes waste reduction, recycling, and energy and water efficiency, is supporting the program with a grant. The pilot will expand to Paden Elementary School and Love Elementary School later this winter.

“This will save thousands of single-use plastic items from going to the landfill every month,” says Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) director James Assia. “We’re extremely grateful to Stopwaste for choosing this as a pilot site, to our custodian Richard Mendez for taking on this program with open arms, and FNS employee Cindy Sweeney for all of her help getting this set up. We couldn’t do this without them.”

Using reusable dinnerware also reduces students’ exposure to toxic chemicals, like PFAS, typically found in single-use foodware.  

StopWaste staff introduced students to the program at an assembly. On the first day, compostable waste generated at the site dropped from four bags to just one.

Young girl with squeeze bottle of dressing

Food and Nutrition Services staff also reintroduced the school’s salad bar (which had been discontinued during the peak of COVID-19 due to health concerns). And the site has once again using squeeze bottles for ketchup and ranch dressing, instead of individual plastic packets of condiments. This reduces both the amount of plastic waste produced and the amount of help children need opening condiments.

Students in Ms. Chaney’s 4th/5th class have played an active role in the transition. StopWaste visited the classroom, for instance, to help students learn about the environmental and health impacts of four different tray options. “From the research, the students concluded that metal trays were the best choice for our personal health and the environment,” Ms. Chaney notes. “StopWaste will return again in the coming weeks to help the students start a persuasive letter-writing campaign to encourage other Alameda entities (such as schools, businesses, etc) to move to reusable metal trays, too.”]

Bay Farm School has long been a leader in waste reduction efforts in AUSD. The school, which serves students in grades K-8, won a Golden Bell Award from California School Boards Association in 2014, a Green Ribbon Award from both the California Department of Education and the US Department of Education in 2016.