Los Angeles system seeking solutions to reduce food waste at schools

Thursday, April 3, 2014

It's lunchtime at Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, but 16-year-old Parrish Jackson has barely touched her turkey burger and apricots. She's dumping them into the trash can.

The apricots are "sour," the junior says. The meat is "nasty." If it were up to her, she would just have taken the potato wedges — they're close enough to fries — then headed to the student store to fuel up on hot Cheetos and juice.

And so it goes on hundreds of campuses in Los Angeles Unified, the nation's second-largest school system, which serves 650,000 meals a day. Students throw out at least $100,000 worth of food a day — and probably far more, according to estimates by David Binkle, the district's food services director. That amounts to $18 million a year — based on a conservative estimate of 10% food waste — which Binkle says would be far better spent on higher-quality items, such as strawberries or watermelon.

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