Preschools nationwide are embracing the nude food revolution and encouraging children to bring a rubbish free lunch to preschool. For the uninitiated, ‘nude food’ is food that comes to school without disposable packaging – extra plastic bags, paper bags, wrappings, plastic water bottles or cling wraps. Australia is the second highest producer of waste per person in the western world! And school lunches are contributing to this, with the average lunch-toting child generating around 30kg of litter a year. You can do your bit to reduce this by packing a school lunch without any extra packaging or juice packs.
Four great reasons to go nude
1. It improves your child’s nutrition
Research shows that an amazing 43% of Australian primary school children aren’t getting the daily recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. The 2013 National Dietary Guidelines states that 60% of Australian adults and one in four children are overweight or obese.
It’s never been more important to provide the education our children need so they understand what makes up a balanced, nutritious diet if we are to combat this growing obesity epidemic and all its associated health risks. With a third of your child’s daily diet consumed at preschool and school, the food in their lunchbox needs to provide optimal nutrition, laying the foundation for a life time of good eating and good health.
Creating waste-free lunches reduces the consumption of packaged, processed foods and increases the intake of fresh, whole foods. Compared to fresh foods, packaged food often contains more kilojoules, fat, salt and sugar. Foods to particularly be avoided include chips, sweet biscuits, muesli bars and breakfast bars along with processed meats such as salami, ham, pressed chicken and Strasbourg. Avoiding those quick, packaged snacks not only reduces waste at school but ensures better nutrition for your child.
2. It reduces rubbish to landfill
In Australia, we create around 1 million tonnes of waste every year. This would fill a line of garbage trucks from Melbourne to London and halfway back again! In a WasteNet survey conducted by the Gould League in 1996, it was found that schools on average produce 33 tonnes of waste per year. We can have a significant impact on landfill by simply avoiding the use of cling wrap, juice boxes, plastic water bottles and all unnecessary packaging.
Although many children now have a reusable drink bottle, plastic water bottles make up part of the waste from schools. In Australia every year around 1 billion plastic water bottles are thrown away, while only 30% are recycled – that means 700 million plastic water bottles end up in landfill or floating in the ocean annually. It takes around 700 years for them to decompose and they have been shown to leach BPA into the water being drunk.
3. It saves trees
Plastic is not the only culprit in school lunch rubbish. Did you know that a school with a population of 500 students will dispose of approximately 11,000 paper bags every year from the canteen? To put this into perspective, it takes one 15-year-old tree to produce 700 brown paper bags! The majority of these paper bags are made from trees growing in diminishing forests, not tree farms or recycled paper. Why not get children to bring their lunch boxes to the tuckshop? Or have sandwich and snack wraps available for them to purchase and re-use?
4. Going nude will save you money
Avoiding packaged foods and buying food in bulk can save time and money. A homemade carrot and apple muffin/frittata/muesli slice will have a much greater nutrient value, less sugar, no preservatives or additives, AND they’re invariably cheaper than the packaged versions. When making your own lunchbox goodies, you can purchase raw ingredients in bulk too – think 5kg of flour in a calico sack instead of 1kg in plastic or paper packaging. Instead of buying a six-pack of yoghurts, purchase one big tub and make up individual, leak-proof containers for lunch. There are plenty of other items you can buy in bulk too – cheese (no nasty cheese slices, please), dried fruit, flour, sugar etc. Keeping larger quantities of food at home can also help you reduce those all-too frequent visits to your supermarket/market/health food shop. Have a look around for suppliers that sell food in bulk. There are a growing number that allow you to bring along your own containers so you can avoid packaging all together.
Do it! Join the nude food revolution!
So why not look at your lunchboxes again? Make a conscious decision to only include foods that leave no packaging at the end of the day. Pop the sandwich or bread roll into a reusable sandwich wrap, use small containers for snack foods and, of course, pack a reusable drink bottle. The only thing left at the end of the day should be an apple core, crusts or other left over food remnants – all good fodder for the compost, which will enrich our soils.
Nude Lunchbox Ideas
- Boiled eggs in shells
- Homemade muffins
- Fruit with sturdy skins
- Meatballs or rissoles
- Sandwiches, wraps or rolls
- Trail mix
- A bundle of carrots tied up with kitchen string
- A small tub of humous or some other dip
- Cheese cubes
- Pasta salad
- Yoghurt in a reusable container