REDUCING FOOD WASTE IN K-12 SCHOOLS
The Center for EcoTechnology (CET) helps guide educational institutions on how to improve their approach to wasted food solutions and reduce their waste across the United States. In collaboration with many organizations, schools in states such as Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts have implemented food waste prevention, recovery, and diversion programs. To support these efforts, CET will host a workshop for K-12 schools in these states on November 17: “Reducing Food Waste in K-12 Schools: Strategies for Prevention, Donation, and Recycling”. Participants in this webinar will learn about different available opportunities, gain a deeper understanding of anaerobic digestion, and hear success stories from schools.
CET and other organizations are working with schools across the Northeast to implement wasted food solutions, explain policies and laws related to food donation, and connect these schools with service providers. There are many opportunities to learn more:
- The GREEN TEAM, an environmental education program which empowers students and teachers to help the environment through waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, energy conservation and pollution prevention, is doing work in Massachusetts. This program is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and administered by CET.
- In Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Schools Recycling Club is tackling food waste through a grant they recently received with support from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and EPA Region 1. As part of the Get Food Smart, Rhode Island partnership, they developed a K-12 toolkitopens PDF file . It includes resources and tips for schools on how to reduce their food waste, and encompasses case studies and guidance for handling surplus food, as well as ways to engage school communities in putting forth solutions.
- The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Department of Health, and the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, developed a set of School Food Waste Guidelinesopens PDF file . This document outlines the benefits of reducing wasted food, recommendations as to how schools can incorporate this information into their curricula, as well as recommendations for the implementation of reduction and donation programs.
To learn more about these kinds of resources and what’s going on in schools surrounding food waste prevention, make sure to tune into our webinar.
HOW SCHOOLS ARE REDUCING WASTE
CET provides customized recommendations to K-12 schools after a free consultation A video case study surrounding the Wilton School’s efforts in Wilton, CT, for example, showcases how these recommendations look in practice. You can view the case study below or here.
To learn more about the programs businesses and institutions are implementing, watch the Follow Up session from the 2021 Rhode Island Food System Summit, as seen in The Business Case for Reducing, Rescuing, and Recycling Wasted Food. This successful webinar involved discussion about the pragmatic aspects to reducing, rescuing, and composting surplus food.
COMPOSTING AS A WASTED FOOD SOLUTION
Composting is a crucial part of stormwater best management practices (BMPs), as stated by the EPA. As outlined on their webpage, examples of BMPs are: compost blankets, filter berms, and filter socks. These BMPs are effective because of compost’s ability to absorb an excessive amount of water, so that issues like erosion do not arise, and the integrity of soil structure is not compromised. Compost also benefits water quality as it traps harmful materials, while also retaining sediment from stormwater. As detailed on the US Composting Council website, it also assists plant growth and health, water conservation, while mitigating climate change and improving wetland health, among other things.
The importance of composting and stormwater retention is reflected in the Healthy Soils Healthy Seas Rhode Island (HSHSRI) initiative. The project focuses on Aquidneck Island in Rhode Island, and seeks to increase composting efforts through education and empowerment. The project emphasizes the link between healthy soils and healthy seas, as the name suggests, and works to integrate composting initiatives for greater efficacy, including when it comes to residential and commercial collection of waste. Other aspects of the project include coaching of schools to be zero waste, additional educational outreach initiatives, local/urban composting, circular soil usage, data collection and presentation, and advocacy for sustainability-oriented change. CET is a proud partner to the HSHSRI initiative, alongside Clean Ocean Access, The Compost Plant, and Black Earth Compost. HSHSRI is made possible with support from 11th Hour Racing.
HOW WE CAN HELP
CET provides cutting-edge waste assistance when it comes to program implementation of waste reduction and composting efforts. The assistance is free and allows institutions to pinpoint opportunities for recycling, reuse, and food recovery. CET facilitates the evaluation of existing waste streams, the identification of opportunities relevant to waste diversion, prevention, and recovery, the empowerment of employees through education, waste bin signage design and implementation, cost analyses regarding a waste diversion program, and building of relationships with waste haulers and processors. Help is available via phone, email, and on-site or virtual visits, as applicable. The phone number to contact is 413-445-4556, while inquiries can also be sent at wastedfood.cetonline.org. On-site visits can be arranged after preliminary information is gathered.
CET has been on the forefront of critical work mitigating climate change through wasted food reduction. The involvement of many partners in the critical work being done, such as the MassDEP’s GREEN TEAM and the Rhode Island Schools Recycling Club, means that a collaborative, multi-faceted approach towards tackling food waste is being used, with the hope that more programs will be implemented in the future.