By Marcia Anderson
Breakfast in the Classroom is a popular meal program in schools nationwide, and is widely adopted in many NYC and surrounding schools. Once in the classroom, however, food becomes a source for potential pest problems. Even if students assist in cleaning up after eating their meal, wipe their desks, recycle waste appropriately, and put the trash in garbage bags, crumbs and spills may go unnoticed.
Pests are not picky. Ants, flies, cockroaches, and mice are drawn to the long-forgotten crumbs in the corner and juice residue left on desks by sticky fingers. It takes very little food for pests to thrive in the hidden spaces of a classroom. Pests are attracted to any place that offers food, water, and shelter – this can include classrooms, cabinets, desks, lockers, and cubbies. Remember that managing pests is important because some can carry diseases, spread food-borne illnesses, and triggers asthma attacks and allergic reactions.
Clean up after meals. Remember that food, even if left in the classroom trash can, becomes an open invitation to any cockroach or rodent in the area. Cleaning up regularly removes the necessities that pests need to survive. Keep paper towels or moist cleansing wipes in each classroom so students and teachers can clean desks after breakfast. Classrooms serving meals may also need more frequent vacuuming or mopping.
Disposing of trash promptly, within about two hours of the meal, and proper recycling keeps classrooms clean and pest-free. Recycling and waste management programs may need to be altered to accommodate disposal of breakfast packaging.
Implement a comprehensive pest management program. EPA recommends that schools adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to managing pests. IPM emphasizes preventative strategies such as sanitation, maintenance, and exclusion. In an IPM approach, school buildings and grounds are inspected to see where pests are finding food, water, and shelter. Steps are then taken to keep pests out and to make conditions unfavorable to pests by keeping everything clean, dry, and tightly sealed. Using IPM practices to manage pests is cost effective, and reduces exposure to pests and pesticides. The goal of a school IPM program is to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff.
Following these practical steps will help keep pests out of your school when serving Breakfast in the Classroom.
About the Author: Marcia is with EPA's Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.