Reusable containers catch on Webb School - CulinArt Group

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Reusable containers catch on Webb School

OWINGS MILLS, MD., July 28, 2021—Last spring, classes resumed at The Webb Schools, in Claremont, Calif., in what can only be described as a compromise brought on by the pandemic: while classrooms were not open and students were not permitted to interact with teachers or each other, they gathered in socially distanced groups of 200 known as “cohorts” in a facility on campus large enough to accommodate all of them without putting them in imminent danger. This was at a time when vaccine appointments were hard to come by and uncertainty (which still lingers) about whether kids should even be vaccinated continued to be debated.

In their modified “cohort classrooms,” students wore masks, sat socially distanced from each other, and peered into their laptops as teachers provided instruction from otherwise empty classrooms. It’s not quite the experience one of California’s most prominent independent schools wished to provide, but it was the best decision given the circumstances and undoubtedly taught administrators a few lessons themselves.

One of those lessons was the cost advantage of investing in reusable, eco-friendly takeout containers—for use in providing meals to the cohorts—as a way to avoid paper costs long-term. According to Armando Amezcua, CulinArt’s foodservice director, Webb spent about $6,800 on containers—1,200 containers at $5.69 apiece—and expects to recoup that investment in avoided paper costs in a couple of years.

For example, Amezcua’s team prepared meals for those 200 students for a three-month period beginning March 1. Students came to campus on certain (but not all) days of the week until the end of May. This amounted to about 65 operating days and use of 200 resuable containers a day. Shrinkage—loss of containers—was a challenge, of course, as it is wherever these containers are used.

But some quick math shows the wisdom in the school’s approach: It would cost about $50 a day to package those meals in a biodegradable container, or a total of $3,250. Amezcua says that no more than 150 eco-containers were lost over the three-month span, which works out to approx. $850. So even with the loss, CulinArt’s use of the reusable containers avoided more than $2,400 in paper expense.

It will take some time before Webb’s entire investment in containers pays for itself. In the meantime, students are learning lessons in both sustainability and responsibility; Amezcua’s team is getting better at recovering containers to prevent loss; and use of paper is diminishing. “It’s a big difference,” Amezcua says, in comparing the cost of paper with the advantage that use of reusable containers brings to the operation. “Even if you don’t get all the containers back, you save a lot of money on other paper products.”

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  • July 29, 2021
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“I wanted to let you know that for this entire school year I have been so well fed! I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE all the diversity of salad choices we have each day and the amazing entrees.  My favorites are the carnitas, chili, curry, and cajun chicken days.  I am so grateful for all the care that goes into the food because I know I do not eat enough vegetables or balanced meals without you and your crew's work.  Thank you so much!  You take such great care of us!!”

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“I wanted to recognize the individuals at the Valley Forge Site Café who have been supporting us throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic.  I have been onsite at least a few days every week since June 2020 and I noticed that the team continued to provide quality and timely service for breakfast and lunch.  They effectively packaged the food to maintain CDC guidelines. Thank you!  ”

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“The roasted tofu/noodle/edamame arugula salad with cabbage, carrots and red peppers was something that I would buy from a restaurant or food truck without question. It would win best school lunch in the U.S. without a doubt if there was such a competition! The textures and flavors were a perfect blend, tied together by an excellent dressing. I don't think anyone would be mad if that popped up on the menu every week. Thanks again to you and your staff for such high-quality food!”

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“You know that I haven't been home (India) for a long time now.  I miss my mama, I miss the food, I miss the smells, I miss the people. Starting yesterday, I started to smell my mama's kitchen at Parker.  I KNEW something Indian was brewing; I could smell the garam masala!  Thank you for the delicious tofu curry.  It made my belly and soul happy.”

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