Cafeteria launches new environmental changes

New items introduced to Corner Cafe


Jonny Ratner

For the 2019-2020 school year that cafeteria started offering students the option of either plastic or reusable utensils. This is just one of the many changes that came to the cafeteria this year.

Melissa Dai and Sharada Vishwanath

The school district has implemented changes in the school cafeteria to create a more environmentally-conscious lunchroom and improve the overall dining experience at Algonquin for the 2019-2020 school year.

In an effort to go green, the cafeteria has introduced environmentally-friendly versions of utensils and trays.

“We’ve incorporated some silverware so the students now have a choice [between plastic utensils and silverware],” Food Services Manager Dianne Cofer said. “We are trying to use reusable silverware for which disposing won’t cause a problem.”

Along with the new silverware, a majority of the styrofoam trays were replaced by reusable trays in another effort to go green. Pressed paper trays may also be used later in the year. According to Cofer, these trays are environmentally-friendly but expensive.

“We’ll [start to use] a pressed paper-type tray, so it’ll at least be biodegradable,” Cofer said. “But the cost is around three times as much [as styrofoam trays]. It’s a huge cost that we have to pay for to make that change” 

Most of these cafeteria changes were instigated by Cofer, but the switch to more environmentally-friendly utensils and trays stemmed from the efforts of junior Sravya Tanikella and the Northborough-Southborough Interact club of which she is president.

“The anti-styrofoam was initiated by some of the students here,” Cofer said. “The rest, I initiated, trying to always come up with ideas and basing it off of what the need is.”

However, since not all of the styrofoam trays were replaced, some students expressed skepticism toward the new modifications.

“I think that the attempt to remove plastic utensils and replace it with silverware is dull compared to the impact of the styrofoam trays that everyone throws away,” sophomore Jasmine Little, who buys lunch every day, said.

And while some appreciated the effort, they believed that the cafeteria should try to be even more environmentally-conscious in the future.

“It’s good that they’re trying to improve the experience of eating in the cafeteria, but I feel like the measures they’ve taken to make the cafeteria more environmentally-friendly with less plastic isn’t enough,” Director of the Northborough-Southborough Interact club and sophomore Cynthia Rajeshkanna said. “They have to do more.”

Overall, despite complaints that the cafeteria could be doing more, some students admired the potential of these new changes.

“Silverware is good because it’s less waste of single use plastics,” junior Wraven Watanabe said. “The school wastes a lot of plastic everyday at lunch so the silverware is a great alternative.” 

Another change consisted of an empty bowl being placed on a cart in the middle of the cafeteria, allowing students to either put a snack in the bowl or take a snack that another student dropped off in the bowl. 

This “Food Share Bin” allows people to dispose of unwanted snacks in a less wasteful manner, as it’s also helping those who are still hungry after they have finished their own lunches.

“[Students can drop off] packaged products such as chips, Pop Tarts, granola bars or whatever, so that students who are still hungry can grab something to supplement themselves,” Cofer said.

While many students appreciate the concept of the bowl, they haven’t yet taken advantage of its perks. 

“[The bowl] seems like a good idea; if someone doesn’t have anything to eat, they can just take a snack,” junior Hayden Rosenburg said. “I don’t think that I would use it, but it seems like it could be useful.” 

The cafeteria has also increased variety of food options available at the Corner Cafe such as the nacho boat, which consists of a cheese cup and a salsa cup with tortilla chips. Students can now also purchase mini soft pretzels with cheese.

“I think the school district is getting really creative with the snack items that [the Corner Cafe] offers, and they’re adding more foods that can be meals, rather than just snacks,” Rajeshkanna said as she purchased a nacho boat.

On top of the changes already introduced this year, Cofer and the school district are planning on progressing towards an even more environmentally-friendly cafeteria in the future. 

“Moving forward, we will hopefully try to go even more green [with more changes],” Cofer said.