Harrison County School District launches more eco-friendly cafeteria trays

These substitute the disposable foam trays that have been used for many years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 7:26 PM CST
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D’IBERVILLE, Miss. (WLOX) - The Harrison County School District recently launched a program aimed at reducing waste at lunchtime.

The district’s child nutrition department has been purchasing reusable compartment trays for all of its school cafeterias. These substitute the disposable foam trays that have been used for many years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students at D’Iberville High School, like Nathan Doan, are already adjusting to the change.

“I feel like it’s a really good choice,” Doan said.

He said the switch to fiberglass will leave a positive impact on conditions in nature.

“By removing the polystyrene to-go trays, we’re actually decreasing the number of plastics that could potentially end up in the environment,” he said. “I like the fiberglass trays strictly because it’s reusable. It’s just a really nice feature for the school to have.”

Brad Barlow, director of the Harrison County School District Child Nutrition, said he thinks the new trays are environmentally friendly.

“We call this the new old-school way of serving food,” Barlow said.

He added that things weren’t easy for the school district during the pandemic.

“We recognized during COVID that, we could not get the volume of polystyrene products we needed because so many other restaurants and food service industries were doing the same thing,” he said.

The Harrison County School District used over 300,000 foam plates every month during the pandemic. Officials said they’re now down to a third of that usage.

Barlow said switching to fiberglass has more than one advantage.

“The goal is to keep our new reusable hard trays for many years into the future,” he said. “The goal is to continually use these hard trays because we have made a significant investment in them.”

The district has also been able to hire new staff to wash and sanitize the new trays.

Barlow said he thinks the trays have been a success and hopes they are occupied to a high advantage.

“Using hard trays every day is the goal. However, there are certain days where we have limited staff,” he said. “Field trips play into the equation where we simply have to use some foam packaging. I think anytime we can serve.”

Doan said he hopes the reusable trays are here to stay.

“Keeping it going on after I graduate just shows that we support this environmentally friendly push. I think it’s a really good move,” he said.

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