Want to figure out one easy way to make school lunches healthier? Healthy gourmet chef, certified health and nutrition counselor Alexandra Jamieson (who has been seen on Oprah, The Final Word, 30 Days, and Super Size Me, amongst a zillion other hot-shot appearances) puts on her Mommazon chapeau and speaks out against creepy styrofoam throwaways at schools. Even the word “styrofoam” makes us shiver in our cute organic panties.
I live in New York City. It’s an amazing, maddening place to live. There are more health food stores and vegan-friendly restaurants per square mile than anywhere else on earth. Still, we have our health problems, especially in the public schools.
It’s bad enough that public schools offer high-fat, over-salted, artificially sweetened food to kids every day. Did you know they also serve that junk on single-use Styrofoam trays?
I have 2 major issues with using Styrofoam food trays for kids:
1. Health Impact: Styrofoam is known to leach polystyrene and BPA into food. Why does this matter? According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), styrene was reported as having a “possible carcinogenic effect to humans.” BPA is a controversial chemical linked to hormone disruption and cancer.
2. Environmental: According to the New York City public school system, 850,000 of these Styrofoam trays are thrown away every day – after being used for about 30 minutes!
Sign the petition to Mayor Mike Bloomberg (“the green mayor?”) and the City Counsel to request that this crazy system be changed for our kids and the planet’s health.
Because Styrofoam is cheap, lightweight and easy to use, the school systems began buying them en masse in the early 1990s. According to SOSnyc.org, or Styrofoam Out of Schools NYC, NYC Council Member, Bill DeBlasio, has introduced legislation to ban Styrofoam in NYC restaurants and city agencies (this bill does not cover NYC schools). They are working with his staff on planning a City Hall rally for the fall, 2009.
The alternatives at this point are:
- An immediate reduction in Styrofoam tray use. Every kid gets a tray even if they’re only buying a wrapped sandwich and a carton of juice. Why is this necessary? High school kids could handle a plate without a tray, and younger kids don’t all need a tray.
- Reusable, washable trays are the best solution. Kids need to learn that living in a throwaway society is no longer an option, and they need to understand the impact of their actions.
- Compostable single-use trays are available.
- It is safer for the kids to eat off of Bagasse or sugar cane trays, which are available for an additional cost of about .03 each. However, if the trays are not composted, their disposal is similar to other single-use products. Sugar cane is a renewable resource. The fibers being used for the sugar cane trays would be burned, otherwise. Still, the Sunshine trays are shipped from Asia.
- Power Tray, LLC is working on a new tray systems that would be made from locally sourced fibers from New York State.
EDITORS NOTE: NYC peeps aren’t the only ones talking about this. In Maryland and Wisconsin, Young activists are taking a stand on Styrofoam lunch trays. Take action in your own City/ Town/ State and let your voice be heard! Sometimes it can be as easy as presenting this blog to your school’s Principal! Let your voices be heard – remember; “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
Alexandra Jamieson has proven herself to be a wise and profound voice for holistic nutrition and healthy living. In her book, The Great American Detox Diet (Rodale, 2005), Alex offers remarkably sane – and tasty – advice on how to detox, live healthfully and feel fantastic. Her knowledge of nutrition has been artfully developed through years of both professional- and self-study. Check out her website at nutritionforempoweredwomen.com.