Child with stainless steel cafeteria tray

Improving The Planet through Eco-Friendly Substitutes for Plastic: Stainless Steel Cafeteria Trays

By Manasa Mantravadi



Time to Read: 9 min

Stainless Steel Cafeteria Trays as a Plastic Alternative

As a pediatrician and mom of 3, children’s health is at the top of my mind. So when I found out that plastic is harmful for children’s health and realized my own children, along with most others in the US, are still eating off of plastic trays or disposable plastics, I knew something had to be done. Since having the idea to bring a solution to school cafeterias, we have already made such an amazing impact on so many children, helping them to avoid the harmful effects of plastic through stainless steel trays. So, I am going to share with you how and why Ahimsa was born and a little bit about this amazing journey of revolutionizing school cafeterias. More than just an eco-friendly substitute for plastic, stainless steel is an ideal surface to eat food from, with the bonus impact of improving sustainability in schools. 

About Ahimsa

Founded by a pediatrician and mom of three

Stainless steel is the only kid-friendly material recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics 

We are guided by a Scientific Advisory Council comprised of environmental and medical experts, guiding us in creating the safest products, following the latest science and promoting policy to protect human health and our planet

Want to know more? Check out our story and our products

What Are the Harmful Effects of Plastic? 

In 2018 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement, warning us about the harmful effects of chemicals found in plastic on a child's hormones, growth, and brain development. Shockingly, over 80% of baby and children's feeding products were identified as plastic, exposing our little ones to potential risks.

The endocrine system, responsible for hormone production, plays a critical role in the normal development of the brain and body. Unfortunately, the chemicals in plastic, known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), interfere with this delicate system, causing disruptions that manifest in various aspects of children's health, from brain development to cardiovascular health.

Unfortunately, plastic has infiltrated our daily lives, and it’s not our fault- it is quite literally everywhere! It is also extremely difficult to find safe alternatives. When my friend group of pediatrician-moms and I were seeking a solution to this plastic problem, we were unsuccessful. I knew that I had the solution- stainless steel.

Why Use Stainless Steel for Cafeteria Trays?

In India, stainless steel dishes are the standard. I knew that stainless steel would be my material of choice when designing dishware because it is safe, durable, and reliable. 

Ahimsa, a Sanskrit word for avoiding harm, became the embodiment of our commitment to creating a safer and healthier future for our children without causing harm to the environment. Ahimsa stainless steel trays have emerged as a symbol of sustainable, eco-friendly, and health-conscious living. While it will take all of us to fight the effects that the chemicals in plastic have already had on children and the greater population, schools are a great place to start, helping to prevent children from being exposed to these chemicals any more than they already have. 

As you glance around your school cafeteria, you likely observe the use of stainless steel pots and pans. Why? Because stainless steel is a trusted, safe, and responsible material that has stood the test of time. In contrast to plastic, which harms our environment and never truly decomposes, stainless steel is 100% recyclable and can be reused indefinitely without any loss of quality. Sustainability in schools can start in the cafeteria, and we hope to be on the front line of this change.

Cafeteria Essentials

Benefits of Having Ahimsa Stainless Steel Trays in School Cafeterias

1. Safety and Well-being: 

Ahimsa's stainless steel trays are designed with the health of our children in mind. Unlike plastic, stainless steel does not leach harmful chemicals into the food, ensuring a safer eating experience for our young ones.

2. Durability and Longevity:

Stainless steel trays are known for their durability and longevity. They withstand the rigors of daily use in school cafeterias, reducing the need for frequent replacements and contributing to cost savings over time. The sustainability factor is two-fold, saving money for the school while reducing the harmful effects of plastic that regular trays can produce.

3. Sustainability: 

Stainless steel is 100% recyclable and can be reused indefinitely without any loss of quality, strength, or composition. By choosing stainless steel over disposable or plastic alternatives, schools contribute to a more sustainable future. Ahimsa only uses recycled steel so that we are not sourcing new materials to create our products. Sustainability, in schools and in every home that has our dishware, is a key facet of what our company hopes to accomplish. 

4. Environmental Impact of Plastic: 

Plastic pollution is a global crisis. By opting for stainless steel trays, schools take a step towards reducing their environmental footprint. Ahimsa’s recycled stainless steel has a lower carbon impact compared to plastic - which contributes to greenhouse emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from production to disposal. For more information on why stainless steel is better than plastic, be sure to browse our frequently asked questions

5. Educational Opportunities: 

Ahimsa's stainless steel trays come with a comprehensive educational program for both schools and parents. This program not only highlights the health benefits but also educates the community about the environmental advantages of choosing stainless steel over plastic.

6. Versatility and Heat Retention: 

Stainless steel trays are versatile and excellent at retaining heat. They keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, ensuring that students enjoy their meals at the ideal temperature. 

7. Pediatrician-Designed Nutrition Standards:

 Ahimsa's trays are designed to meet specific nutrition standards set by USDA MyPlate, the American Academy of Pediatrics Nutrition Guide, and the National School Lunch Program. The mirrored finish engages young students, making mealtime an exciting and positive experience.

8. Economic Considerations

While disposables and plastic reusables may seem cost-effective and convenient in the short term, the long-term costs to our children's health and the environment are substantial. Reusables, such as Ahimsa's stainless steel trays, not only save money over time but also contribute to a more sustainable future for our schools and communities.

Ahimsa stainless steel goes above and beyond required regulations to ensure the safety of our products. We take pride in providing individualized lab reports for each tray order, guaranteeing that our products are free from known or potentially harmful chemicals. When you choose Ahimsa, you're choosing quality and safety above all. In fact, we are proud to be the only company in the country to have received platinum status, the highest most stringent to achieve, in the prestigious Green Screen certification for reusable foodware. This new and stringent standard encourages the design and use of safer chemicals nationally.

Our stainless steel trays are more than just a serving solution; they come with a comprehensive educational program for both schools and parents. We believe that understanding the health and environmental benefits of stainless steel is crucial for creating a sustainable future. Ahimsa aims to be a catalyst for change, sparking conversations and awareness about the choices we make and their impact on our children's health and the planet.

 But why stop there? Ahimsa is not just about trays; it's a movement towards a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. Our trays are a symbol of the choices we make and the impact those choices have on our children's health and the environment. Remember, even small steps can have a big impact!

Let's make a lasting impact on our children's health, our environment, and the future of school cafeterias. Choose Ahimsa for a safer, healthier, and more sustainable tomorrow. To learn more or to get Ahimsa stainless steel trays in your school, check out 

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician whose dedication to children’s health drove her to launch Ahimsa, the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. She was motivated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings on harmful chemicals in plastic affecting children's well-being. Ahimsa has gained widespread recognition and been featured in media outlets such as Parents Magazine, the Today Show, The Oprah Magazine, and more.

Dr. Mantravadi received the esteemed “Physician Mentor of the Year” award at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2019. She was also named a Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneur in 2021, with her inspiring story showcased on Good Morning America. She serves on the Council for Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Council for School Health at The American Academy of Pediatrics. She represents Ahimsa as a U.S. industry stakeholder on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Global Plastics Treaty, led by the United Nations Environment Program. Dr. Mantravadi leads Ahimsa's social impact program, The Conscious Cafeteria Project, to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard student health as part of a national pilot of the Clinton Global Initiative.

She is dedicated to educating and empowering people to make healthier, more environmentally friendly choices at mealtime. Her mission remains to advocate for the health of all children and the one planet we will leave behind for them through real policy change within our food system.

Mealtime Essentials for Your Home

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use stainless steel instead of plastic? Is stainless steel better for health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in July 2018 suggesting ways that families can limit exposure to certain chemicals at mealtime, including “the use of alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.” The report explained that “…some additives are put directly in foods, while “indirect” additives may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard”. Further, “Children are more sensitive to chemical exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do, and are still growing and developing.” While stainless steel items meet the recommendation to avoid plastic products in children, Ahimsa® products have the obvious advantage of not breaking like glass.

Is stainless steel better for the environment than plastic?

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel can be recycled over and over and over again without losing its integrity and requires less energy to recycle than to make anew. Most plastic unfortunately ends up in landfills and it is estimated to take 700 years to decompose. Our special coloring process that allows Ahimsa® products to be fully metal is environmentally friendly, so it does not produce toxic run-off into the ecosystem.

Will Ahimsa products break or peel?

No. Our steel is durable, so it won’t break or shatter with everyday use, like glass. And it won’t peel, like other colored stainless steel products you’ve seen. We use a special process that allows the colors to naturally occur in the metal.

Which Ahimsa products are best for my little one(s)?

Our products are meant to last, you can use Ahimsa at ages 1, 8 and 18! We thoughtfully design our products to be safe for little ones and our planet while reducing consumption. Once your child outgrows the Starting Solids Set  and can use regular cups and utensils, the training cup is the perfect size rinse cup in the bathroom, the infant spoon doubles as a tea stirrer and the bowl is great for snacks or as an additional compartment to our modular divided plate. Our plates are great for any age as they encourage choosing a variety of healthy foods at each meal and help visualize portion sizes easily. It’s the lasting beauty of stainless steel - grows with your child and reduces waste.

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