“Hey, That’s My Sandwich!”: Food Waste Recovery, Environmental Stewardship, and School Curriculum
Wilson, Shari L.
Solid Waste Association of North America
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Over 3.5 years, more than 20 schools in the Kansas City, Missouri, region collected nearly a half ton of food and paper waste from their cafeterias for composting. This presentation, delivered at SWANA’s (a waste management industry organization) annual spring conference, described the program and its’ challenges and successes. Students from age 3 through high school learned to sort the materials on their lunch trays into recyclable, compostable, and trash items, with the result of dramatically reducing the volume of waste taken to the landfill. Through the program, for which the author received a succession of grants from the Mid-America Regional Council, students also participated in waste audits and curriculum activities to learn about solid waste management, recycling, composting, gardening, and environmental stewardship. Many schools incorporated this learning as part of their character education programs. An important outcome of this program was the realization that without policies at the school district level mandating food waste collection for composting, once grant funds end many schools cannot sustain the programs due to the cost or change in leadership.