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A Fistful of Flatware: Reusable Utensils for School Cafeterias

4J makes eco-friendly shift to reusable utensils while bringing school food service in-house 

As Eugene School District 4J transitions to self-operated Nutrition Services management for student food service, a number of projects are underway, including the complete replacement of kitchen items. Pots, pans, trays, plates, storage supplies, utensils for food preparation, dining and serving and other tools need to be purchased for 36 different sites.

4J is moving to a self-operated nutrition services model after decades of working with large school food management companies, most recently Sodexo. Along with providing food procurement, planning and management, the food services management company also provided equipment used to cook, prepare, serve and consume school food.

The district has determined that it will be more effective and cost efficient to acquire new items, instead of purchasing Sodexo’s inventory of used smallwares. The Nutrition Services Management team is working to select and acquire new kitchen equipment, meal trays, flatware and other items this summer.

The smallwares replacement plan will be more eco-friendly, as well as more cost effective, as the district will be purchasing mostly reusable utensils instead of the disposable plastic flatware that was previously provided at many schools.

Reusable utensils will now be the norm in 4J elementary school cafeterias. Disposable options will still be provided to support field trips, and offered as a grab-and-go choice at middle and high schools where students are more mobile during lunch time.

The change will require adjustments for students and staff at every elementary school, but the benefits are many.

Reusable utensils:

  • Require less energy and resources over their lifetime than disposable options, even with the added energy and water needed to wash them.
  • Lessen the district’s impact on the environment by reducing plastic waste and the production of plastic utensils that can create water and air pollution.
  • Reduce health concerns about some plastic products leaching chemicals that can be harmful to people.
  • Are cheaper in the long run compared with purchasing single-use plastic utensils that will be thrown in the garbage.

Stay tuned for updates as the district’s transition to local management of school nutrition services progresses.

Nutrition Services News Updates

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