Toni’s Kitchen Goes Green!

Toni’s Kitchen’s meal service just keeps getting better. We’re pleased to say that we are now using reusable dinnerware.  We’ve moved away from serving on Styrofoam plates and bowls and coffee cups, plastic tableware, and disposable drinking glasses. That means some 250 table settings a week (13,000 a year!) are being replaced by utilizing real reusable dishes and flatware! That’s an environmentally friendly move.

The process started with our kitchen makeover, which included a new high temperature commercial dishwasher funded by a walk-a-thon by students of Bradford School in Montclair. Once we could wash a large volume of dishes efficiently we were ready to begin.

Next, we ran a mug drive and supporters donated their new or gently used surplus coffee mugs. We started using these in late December and were able to stop using disposable Styrofoam cups for hot beverages.

A generous donor provided funds for us to purchase a full set of melamine dishes: 150 dinner plates, 200 each of soup bowls, smaller fruit bowls, and 7 inch dessert or appetizer plates. These dishes arrived in January and we are using them for meals now, eliminating the rest of our Styrofoam dish use.

St. Luke’s Church shared 200 place settings of their stainless flatware with us which we started using in Jan. If you ever tried cutting a pork chop with plastic fork and knife you’ll know how welcome this change is to our guests.

Finally, two loyal donors gave us funds to purchase 250 drinking glasses and the racks and dolly necessary to wash and store them efficiently. The colorful plastic tumblers and racks are now in use.

What a change already!  Our healthy delicious meals just seem to taste and look even better on real plates and dishes. They’re easier for volunteers to serve at the table than when meals were on a flexible, disposable plate. And our guests have applauded our change and shown their appreciation by carefully bussing and scraping their dishes. The benefits continue. By eliminating the disposable dishes, coffee and cold drink cups, knives, forks and spoons that we were purchasing regularly, we will save approximately $3,000 a year. Our trash collection costs will also drop. The money we’re saving goes back into our programs.

Most important is the “green” factor. We feel so much better about our stewardship of the environment by not generating large quantities of plastic and Styrofoam waste–much of which could not be recycled.

Switching to reusable dishes, cups, and silverware eliminates the waste of approximately 109,824 plastic dishes and cups and 73,209 pieces of plastic tableware a year.

What a win, win, win. It’s a way to better present meals to our guests, waste less and stretch our dollars even further. We all welcome this change.

Going green has also opened up a new volunteer opportunity in the kitchen. Washing the dishes, tumblers and flatware takes an extra hour or so. We’re looking to add three extra volunteers on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to come in from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm to help serve the meal and clean up.  If you’ve tried to volunteer in the past and found that our signup sheets were full, or if you want to be part of our changes, email us at to volunteer. It’s as rewarding, fun and fellowship-filled as all of our other positions.

Here’s a little “OLD” vs. “NEW” look at our dinnerware: