Dishwasher donation continues green evolution at Franklin Elementary

Benjamin Franklin Elementary Foundation Green Team member Karen Hare-Neilsson cheers on students holding the letters thanking the Hobart Corp. at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Glendale on Monday. The Hobart Corp. donated a new dishwashing system, with a new energy-efficient dishwasher and lunch trays to reduce the amount of waste generated from the school lunch program.
(Tim Berger/Glendale News-Press)

It isn’t often the donation of a kitchen appliance calls for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, speeches by area dignitaries and television coverage.

Yet, an ecological event at Franklin Elementary School International Foreign Language Academy of Glendale on Monday was much more than the welcoming of a gift.

The gathering was also a celebration of persistence and forward-thinking by members of the school’s PTA.

Months of letters, calls and meetings between Franklin’s PTA Green Lunchroom Committee and executives from Hobart Corp., a food-equipment manufacturer and service provider located in Troy, Ohio, culminated in the donation of an industrial dishwasher to the school valued between $20,000 and $25,000.

The appliance has turned Franklin a shade greener as the school, which has about 650 students, will be the first in the district to eliminate single-use plastic utensils and plates.

Now, Franklin students are using reusable plastic compartmentalized trays, in which the food will be served, along with metal forks and spoons, purchased by the district.

In all, Glendale Unified paid about $5,000 for the accessories, which includes dish racks, trays, utensils, dollies and a drying rack.

Jennifer Freemon, president of the Glendale Unified school board, said she appreciated the support from the Franklin PTA and the green team.

“I know what a commitment it is here to be involved,” she said.

“We often find ourselves with the greatest ideas and a pocketbook that doesn’t match,” she added.

At one time, Glendale Unified schools routinely used dishwashers and reusable utensils before the district phased out both, estimated by district officials to have been decided sometime in the 1980s, in favor of single-use products.

While Franklin PTA treasurer Michael Bridges said parents have been talking about eliminating single-use plastic products for the last 18 months, Hobart became involved in the discussion, thanks to Bridges.

Bridges, whose daughters Jeneva and Florence attend Franklin, remembered the effectiveness of Hobart dishwashers when the then-high-school student was employed at Camp Pioneer in upstate New York in the 1970s.

Glendale Unified School District members, Benjamin Franklin Elementary's Foundation Green Team, Franklin Elementary administration, and Hobart Corp. representatives pose for a ribbon-cutting inside the washing area with a new dishwasher and counter at a ceremony recognizing a conservation initiative at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School on Monday. The Hobart Corp. donated a new dishwashing system, with a new energy-efficient dishwasher and lunch trays to reduce the amount of waste generated from the school-lunch program.
(Tim Berger/Glendale News-Press)

“I had the summers of my life and remember working in the kitchen and using the ‘Hobie’ or Hobart machine,” Bridges said.

“It worked fine then, so I thought, ‘You know, I’m just going to call them,’” he added.

Calls were followed by letters and then visits by Hobart executives before the company broke its own protocol and donated the dishwasher.

“We have agreements with ... universities and colleges but not in the elementary school-level,” Hobart representative Nick
Butler said.

“The PTA board member contacted us, we listened to what they had to say and it was a great idea and opportunity for everybody,” he added.

Bridges acknowledged fundraising for such a project would have been difficult.

“This would have taken us years,” he said. “There’s no way we could have raised $22,000 in the same amount of time.”

PTA co-chair Karen Hare-Nielsson, who shared duties with Monica Campagna, said she was thankful for the district’s efforts, which not only included the $5,000, but the entire reworking of the school’s kitchen.

“There hadn’t been a dishwasher in there since the ‘80s, so the plumbing and electricity had to be redone and rerouted,” she said.

“The whole cafeteria had to be reorganized,” she added.

The new dishwasher coincides with several green initiatives at Franklin, which include worm-binning, using worms to break down trash into compost, and the “sharing table,” a counter where students can place unwanted cafeteria foods items so that others can eat them.

“It’s a good thing about the dishwasher because now we’re wasting less,” Franklin third-grader Lily Kate Evans Deason said at the ceremony. “We don’t have to dump more.”

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