Albany Unified School District Switch to Reusables with Grant Funding

April 19, 2024 by Hobart Dishroom

Schools, Dishwashing, K12

In the spring of 2024, a new Hobart CLeN Ventless Conveyor Type Dishmachine was installed in the central kitchen of Albany Unified School District (AUSD) in California, thanks in part to grant funding from StopWaste, a public agency focused on reducing waste in Alameda County. The dishmachine allows the school district to switch from disposable to reusable ware, reducing the amount of waste being sent to the landfill each day by the district’s six schools.

Like many school districts across the country, AUSD relied heavily on disposable ware. At each meal the district serves about 3,500 students, all using plastic trays, cups and utensils. “For years I watched as we sent thousands of pounds of disposable ware into the landfill,” says Sabina Feinberg, executive chef, (pictured above with her new machine) at AUSD. “It really weighed on me what we were doing to the environment, but we didn’t have money in the budget to purchase a dishmachine.”

Investing in Infrastructure

Budget issues are a reality for school systems like AUSD but grant money can help pay for equipment and ware to switch over to reusable ware programs. For AUSD, located in Alameda County, California, the school had access to the StopWaste grant program, which funds a Reusable Foodware Infrastructure Grant each year. Through StopWaste and other grant opportunities, AUSD received funding to purchase and install a dishmachine at the central kitchen and purchase reusable trays and utensils.

Feinberg found out about the StopWaste program at a district meeting where another school presented on their success with the grant opportunity. “Seeing that another school was able to do this was a real turning point for me,” she says. “Knowing someone else could do it gave me confidence to do it. And now I can be an example for others.” She goes on to say “I am excited about being a pioneer by switching to reusables. I like being that for other people.”

California leads the way in assisting schools with converting to reusable ware programs. In addition to the StopWaste program in Alameda County, the state’s department of education also offers a commercial dishwasher grant. But other states and local agencies have funds available to schools as well. “I wouldn’t have known where to start to do this on my own but working with the people at StopWaste helped make it happen, and I think we will really make an impact on our community,” Feinberg says.

Benefits of Dishmachines in K-12 School Systems

Before the grant, each school and the central kitchen of AUSD relied solely on three-compartment sinks to manually wash ware used in food prep and serving. Now, the six schools will transport dirty trays and utensils to the central kitchen, where they will be washed and sanitized, and returned for service the next day. In addition to dramatically reducing the amount of waste going to local landfills, AUSD will see other benefits from integrating a commercial dishwasher into the district’s warewash program.

Labor. While Feinberg plans to hire a person to focus on dishwashing, the addition of a dishmachine brings overall labor savings of about 40% to organizations that upgrade from a three-compartment sink. Staff no longer have to hand wash dishes, leaving them more time to do other tasks in the kitchen.

Water use. Studies have shown that upgrading to a dishmachine from a three-compartment sink reduces water consumption by up to 70%. Multiple gallons of water are needed each time a three-compartment sink is filled up, whereas most commercial dishwashers use less than a gallon of water per rack of ware.

Food Safety. It’s very difficult to ensure ware is consistently and properly sanitized manually in a 3-compartment sink. Studies have revealed many items never touch the sanitizer or are not submersed for the necessary amount of time. An automated commercial dishwasher helps ensure every piece of ware is properly sanitized, on every cycle.  



Integrating a dish machine into your K-12 foodservice operation can make a big impact by reducing environmental impacts and improving operational efficiencies. Visit Hobart’s Reusable Ware and Sustainability website to learn more about how making the switch to reusable ware programs can benefit your school system.


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