Forks get the chop with switch to alternative utensils
By Elizabeth Lande, Managing and Copy Editor
Humor and cynicism broke out among the student body on Friday, Jan. 10 in response to an email from assistant principal Andrew Guss. The school wide email announced that, in the following week, the lunchroom would begin using chopsticks. A string of witty student responses followed this initial email, but the fact remained: forks were off the menu.
In the email, Guss directly laid forth the reasoning for the utensil transition. Since the beginning of the school year, the lunchroom’s reusable plates and silverware had been disappearing — into garbage cans, into lunchboxes, and even into the school’s grounds.
“I think it’s a very small number of students who are maliciously destroying or throwing away forks,” principal Danny Rock said. “But we’ve gone out into the woods over here and … pulled out 30 plates. … That’s deliberate mischievous behavior, but aside from that, most of the forks end up in the garbage end up in the garbage accidentally.”
In addition to missing lunchware, staff members routinely found forks with bent tines at the end of every lunch, effectively ruining them. This combined negligence whittled the school’s fork supply from several thousand down to a mere 60. Already facing budget cuts, the district couldn’t continue replacing the silverware, and sought out a more affordable option.
In their search, they also considered environmental factors, ruling out the option of plastic forks. Rock noted that, after announcing the switch to chopsticks, some students had brought up the threat of deforestation, specifically in China, to satisfy the demand for chopsticks.
“Our preference would definitely be the most environmentally friendly … solution, that we have forks that we wash,” Rock said. “Hopefully we can get back to that at some point.”
The plan to use forks again will involve the same factors used in the decision to stop using them: money and student behavior. While buying more forks may eventually become fiscally possible, it won’t be a logical decision if students continue losing, taking, or destroying forks.
“Something we’ll need to think through [is] how we partner with students in making sure we don’t reproduce the same problem over again,” Rock said. “We will continue to expect that our students will behave appropriately and believe the best of our students, … while at the same time trying to respond to something like this, which is a combination of some students making poor choices.”
These poor choices have a particularly negative impact on the kitchen staff and janitorial employees. Trying to feed and clean an entire district of students is no small task, and the disregard for this effort, purposely or accidentally expressed through the treatment of silverware, can begin to feel personal.
“They feel very strongly for our students, they care for our students, and they work hard,” Rock said. “They make our food from scratch because they want our students to have a good experience. We bought trays and plates because Lisa Cyra wanted her students have a restaurant quality experience every single day.”
Rock did express his gratitude with how well students were adapting to the chopsticks.
“I’ve been very grateful that there haven’t been chopsticks shoved into noses and ears,” Rock said. “There haven’t been any chopstick injuries. We haven’t seen any chopstick vandalism. Please keep it up, dear students.”