Saturday February 2, 2013

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- The newly renovated kitchen and cafeteria space at Cambridge Central School has gotten reusable utensils and will be receiving a new name after a week-long contest. In a prepared release written by CCS student Lyndsey Brainerd, the completion of the cafeteria renovations was touted as an opportunity for improvement in the school’s environmental policy.

"Obviously we want to be more eco-friendly," said lunch room manager Amy Braun, who said the switch from standard plastic cutlery to reusable metal utensils was an initiative spurred by the elementary and high school student councils; student-led organizations that donated the initial $500 for utensils. Braun said the new silverware would be tested on a pilot basis through the remainder of the school year.

According to the release, the change has a variety of positive outcomes, including teaching students about reuse and recycling. Previously, the school’s cafeterias went through about 91,000 forks alone each year, or 500 per school day, at a cost of $6 per 1,000. They were then thrown away to be burned in an incinerator or buried at a landfill.

The metal utensils were put into use Jan. 14, the same day that students and lunch staff moved back into the newly renovated space. Now, the push is on to ensure the utensils are saved and not thrown away. A similar move in 2010-11 to reusable plates at schools in Bennington, Vt., resulted in many students (particularly those of high school age) simply tossing the plates in the trash.

"Even with the best of intentions, we’re going to be losing some," said Braun, contacted by telephone Friday. She said administrators were working with student government to spread the word. "They’re making the student body more aware," she said. In addition to environmental considerations, the real utensils are also simply more "user-friendly." Who would rather use a plastic spork over a real fork? Braun asked.

"We’re saying to the kids: Take care of the silverware." The new utensils join reusable plastic trays at CCS. There is still the option of foam trays and plastic silverware for "travel trays" where the lunch might leave the cafeteria or school.

Meanwhile, CCS students were also busy thinking up new names for the elementary and high school dining areas. Formerly known as the "old" and "new" cafeterias, the naming contest was an idea floated by the school’s shared decision making committee, a collection of school staff and students and community members.

Braun, a member of that committee, said there had been lots of suggestions through the week of Jan. 28, which will be reviewed by the committee this Monday and then submitted to the administration and school board for approval. Students who submitted the winning names will be allowed to design a day’s menu in March and will be served lunch in a "VIP seating area" with their closest friends where teachers and administrators will wait the table.

Students were asked to think of names that represented the school and community. The plan is to name the entire cafeteria/kitchen space, and then have individual names for the elementary and high school spaces, which are separated by the kitchen and serving lines. The names should be up for display and in use by next fall.

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