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Maryland Students Demand Removal Of Foam Lunch Trays

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Student activists in Maryland confronted the Montgomery County Board of Education about their resistance to switching away from disposable trays.
Elliott Francis
Student activists in Maryland confronted the Montgomery County Board of Education about their resistance to switching away from disposable trays.

A group of Maryland student activists, some as young as 9 years old, are took their crusade for healthier schools in front of Monday's meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education.

For months now, the Young Activists Club from Piney Branch Elementary School and Takoma Park Middle School have been trying to encourage the school system to discontinue the use of polystyrene trays in the lunchroom. The activists say studies show the plastic is a known neurotoxin and carcinogen, which has prompted 24 municipalities in the U.S. to stop using them.

"We would like to ask that you please help us, and do the right thing," said fifth-grader Anna Brooks, offering testimony at the hearing.

The students attended the regular meeting of the board of education to give public testimony and demand a fair hearing on their so-called, "healthy schools project." Student activists and their advisers say the school system's $137 million budget shortfall demands the project's healthy sustainable initiative, which they say will save $5,000 in its first year of operation.

Faculty advisor Nadine Bloch says its hard to understand why Superintendent Joshua Starr and the board haven’t acted on their request, especially when the students have raised $10,000 for re-usable trays and a commercial dishwasher. She says at least one board member is in support.

"We did get a good reaction from Laura Bertium, and we’re glad she came out positively, because what we really need is a champion on the board," said Bloch.

Superintendent Joshua Starr was non-committal about the plan: "There are a bunch of materials and I know our folks have looked at them a couple of times."

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