The stress of the new school year can come on as excitement for some, anxiety for others and just plain chaos for even more of us. The new school year starts with new boxes of crayons, rulers, freshly polished floors and of course... pencils. A long time ago, school supply lists were quite short. Now, with even more school budget cuts imposed upon public schools every year combined with our voracious need to consume "new" things....the lists have grown longer and longer and the financial burden put on families during the school year has become great. I almost fell over when I saw the gargantuan list of supplies that I would need to be purchasing for my kids! 10 notebooks and 72 pencils..... you've got to be kidding me! For many of us, myself included... I tend to step back and shy away from the "back to school" shopping craziness that seems to pop up in every store. Here a sale, there a sale, spend money here, spend money there. There is just not the $$$ in the bank. And let's be honest, do kids really need new clothes to start the year? I may purchase underwear and socks... but my kids get new clothes when they need them... not when they want them. If money grew on trees, sure there would be extra for this or that, yet that is a dream only few are acquainted with.
These are tough times for many families. I work in a school that has tremendous needs. When we offer free school supplies to families, they are usually gone within 20 minutes and there is a line stretching out the door. People work hard and often have little extra to spend on school supplies or new clothes. Food seems to be the most important thing to put on the table. Who needs those new jeans and cool folders when there is no milk or cereal for the morning breakfast? Within the pressures of our "new everything" reality, that in order to be part of this reality, one must purchase "new" things. This of course is fueled by our 24/7 media stream; buy this, buy that, cool new this and cool new that. Everybody wants to fit in, right? As they saying goes... you only have one chance to make a good first impression. In this culture dominated by visual distractions, I can see why some place such importance on the outward appearances. I know I love a new pair of boots or great fitting pair of jeans. Remember junior high and all you wanted was the new cool asymmetrical hair cut just so you could fit in? It's not bad to want new things, it can just become wasteful when items that we have purchased never end up being used, hang in a closet or sit on the shelf. How can we reduce our waste and still achieve our goals?
This post is #1 in a series of four. As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was contacted by Glad, the plastic bag company to look at how we create waste and how we can possibly modify our decisions to create less waste. (Remember Tom Bosley's commercials?) The purpose of the these posts is to spend some time and take a look around us at the waste we make, whether it is in the classroom or kitchen. The focus is reduce, reuse and recycle. Garbage bags aren't going anywhere any too soon, it's what we fill them with that we need to consider. Our choice and the challenge? ~ let's be proactive about what we use, how we use it and how we can re-use it. How can we make changes in our lives that lessen our impact on mother earth? Can we compost more of our kitchen scraps? Can we choose to use compostable bags? Can we recycle all of our paper? Can we tame the consumerism fever? Important questions that don't require maximum brain power, just the ability to make some different choices.
How does this apply to school supplies you ask? As I see ream after ream of paper being printed and photocopied upon, only to be tossed out into the recycle bins, I cringe. The paper waste is HUGE within public schools. At the midway point in the year, it is safe to say that schools have printed at least 50,000 sheets of paper. And this is not even including the 8 notebooks the teachers ask for, or the reams of loose leaf paper and 10 pocket folders that families are now required to bring in. Students and families are asked to purchase heaps of supplies. If only schools and families could be more proactive in their re-using of school supplies. I have seen perfectly good notebooks and folders tossed and crayons thrown away because they weren't new. Glue sticks have been tossed into the trash because they have dried out before the end of the school year and they are brand new! I have also seen pencils thrown away just because the lead was broken! What ever happened to sharpening? How frustrating... my grandfather would be rolling over in his grave if he saw something like that. The age old adage.... money does not grow on trees is so true, and neither do pencils, or glue sticks.... or paper.
I encourage you to do two things:
1) Speak with your child's school and talk about reusing materials. Encourage the school and your child's teacher to take a hard look at what they really need as far as supplies. Help them take an inventory of what school supplies are asked for at the beginning of the year, which ones are wasted throughout the year, and what teachers always have leftover at the end of the school year. Can any of it be reused? Get creative!
2) If you can afford it, do it. Make donations to your school. I know this seems backwards as I am talking about reusing materials, instead of always going the way of new. However poverty is real, families do need help and supplies, even one bag full, could amount to more than a single trip to the grocery store. Teachers budgets are cut each year so there is some truth to the ever increasing supply list. Backpacks are always in high demand, winter coats, gloves, mittens and scarves are important too. Sponsor a coat drive of gently used coats for families who don't have the resources to purchase a new one. Consider giving a cash donation to your school. Donate your time. Donate snacks. Give what you can give.
Schools are communities. Communities are living, ever-changing organisms. We are all in this together, we just need to find a spot to do our share.
Coconut Cream Pie - my back to school treat for my kiddos -
1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted cold butter, cut into 8 pieces - organic preferred
1 large egg yolk
(1 ts. grated lemon zest) - optional
Oven to 400 degrees. Butter your pie plate thoroughly. Pulse all ingredients, minus the egg yolk, in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture forms moist crumbs. Add egg yolk, pulse until it just comes together. Pat crust down into pan and up sides. Prick all over the bottom and up on the sides with a fork. Put into the refrigerator for thirty minutes. Take out and place into oven until the crust is a nice golden brown. This takes about 20 minutes. Let cool.
Organic Coconut Cream Filling Recipe:
3/4 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups organic half and half
2 large eggs
1 and 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 TBS unsalted butter, organic and cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla
1 pint organic heavy cream
Extra coconut for toasting
Add sugar, cornstarch, salt, egg yolks, coconut and organic half and half in pan. Stir constantly until mixture just comes to a boil. Turn off heat, add in the butter pieces and vanilla, stir until melted and mixed and pour into crust. Let cool overnight for best flavor. Top pie with whipped cream, 1 pint sweetened with a bit of sugar to your liking and toasted coconut. To toast coconut, place 1/2 cup sweetened or unsweetened shredded coconut on a baking sheet at 300 degrees for around 7 minutes. Careful as it burns easily.
xoxoxo.... love by the truckload.....megan