An Indianapolis-based company that launched a line of stainless steel tableware for children two years ago is now expanding by introducing stainless steel lunch trays. Ahimsa was started by Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, an Indianapolis pediatrician, with a goal to reduce dependence on plastic during mealtime. She says plastic dishes, cups, and lunch trays are full of chemicals which can interfere with a child’s hormones, growth and development.
In an interview with Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta, Mantravadi said her mission is for schools to toss plastic trays for good.
“The chemicals in plastic look like the hormones that we normally have in our body. And so, they mess up our normal system,” said Mantravadi. “When they’re eating off of that plastic, they’re exposed to those chemicals, and it can really interfere with their health.”
Mantravadi says stainless steel is inert, so it does not interact with the food that children are eating. She says that is why it is usually seen in commercial kitchens and hospitals. Also, she says her products are non-porous, meaning it does not have those small indentations where bacteria can hide.
“From a health standpoint, it’s a safer material. So again, a prime choice for hospitals and commercial cafeteria,” explained Mantravadi.
She says from an environmental standpoint, stainless steel is one of the most recycled materials in the world, while only less than 10% of plastic is actually recycled. This a new product line for Ahimsa, but the steel trays are already being used Orchard School, a private school in Marion County.
“This one simple change is sparking so much conversation among students. So yes, it’s a healthier, safer alternative. But they’re learning about the why behind the change, which is really why I launched this company,” Mantravadi said. ”It’s like such a simple solution to such a big problem. So I hope that all the you know, schools in the state in the country can adopt such a change.”
In terms of cost, Mantravadi says schools using plastic are spending “a lot of money” to constantly replenish. She says schools that have piloted the use of stainless steel trains are recouping their investment within two years.