New Date for Reusable Foodware in School Cafeterias Webinar

In a previous post, I highlighted a webinar organized by Seven Generations Ahead entitled “School cafeterias reimagined: The case for reusable foodware.”

That webinar has been rescheduled for March 16. If you previously registered for the February 16 presentation, you will need to re-register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/new-date-school-cafeterias-reimagined-the-case-for-reusable-foodware-tickets-142275579087.

reusable school lunch tray with food in each compartment plus reusable glass and fork

Upcoming Webinar: Reusable Foodware in School Cafeterias

Seven Generations Ahead will be hosting a free webinar on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 entitled “School cafeterias reimagined: The case for reusable foodware.

From the event website:

Want to create a better dining experience, protect student health, & cut costs, all while reducing waste and its impact on our environment?

Join Seven Generations Ahead to learn how your K-12 school district can reap the benefits of transitioning to reusable foodware. School nutrition professionals from two urban districts will share how they’ve prioritized reusables and what motivated this change. You’ll hear about the impacts on staffing, waste levels, and costs as they make the transition to using dishwashers, bulk milk dispensers, and durable trays, dishes, and utensils.

You’ll also learn about the health and environmental impacts associated with toxins commonly found in single-use foodware, as well as the safety of reusables during COVID and ways to minimize disposable packaging for classroom meals and curbside meal distribution.

Speakers:

  • Sue Chiang, Pollution Prevention Director, Center for Environmental Health
  • Diane Grodek, Executive Chef, Austin Independent School District
  • Eliza Pessereau, Minnesota GreenCorps Waste Reduction Member, Minneapolis Public Schools-Culinary & Wellness Services

This webinar is for school nutrition staff, as well as district administrators, procurement, sustainability, facilities, and operations staff. Teachers, parents, and students are also welcome. The presentations will be followed by a Q&A.”

The webinar is scheduled for 3:00 to 4:15 PM, CST, Feb. 16, 2021.

Register online here.

reusable school lunch tray with food in each compartment plus reusable glass and fork

Northwestern University Donates Unclaimed Meals as Students Self-Quarantine

The global COVID-19 pandemic has created disruptions to our food supply chain that resulted in instances of increased food waste, all during a time when many people are struggling with unemployment, medical bills and other unforeseen costs that could exacerbate food insecurity–a lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.

So case studies of the recovery of unused food being diverted to feed hungry people are even more welcome and inspiring now, though they’re always reason for celebration, of course. One such example involves Northwestern University and the Compass Group, which is the company in charge of food preparation for Northwestern dining halls.

As reported for “Northwestern Now” on January 15, 2021 by Stephen Lewis:

During Northwestern’s Wildcat Wellness period, students were required to self-quarantine in their residence hall rooms. During this time, 2,400 residential students — with a meal plan — were delivered lunch and dinner; that;’ approximately 66,000 delivered meals over two weeks. But unlike ordering take-out from your favorite neighborhood restaurant, hundreds of these boxed, hot meals were left unclaimed and untouched.

“Over five hundred meals were returned, and we knew that if this was going to continue, this would be a really big problem. So, I put a call out to a bunch of non-profits around the city and people came together to start a massive food recovery effort,” said Sarah Levesque, the Sustainability Director for Compass Group, the company in charge of preparing meals for Northwestern dining halls.

Sixty non-profit organizations quickly responded to the urgent call. During the two-week Wildcat Wellness period, twice a day, dozens of volunteers collected the uneaten meals to deliver to those in need. Give-N-Kind, a non-profit started by Northwestern alumnus, Emily Petway (’02) helped coordinate the effort to recover meals that were not distributed…

Nearly 10,000 meals are expected to be donated by the time the Wildcat Wellness period ends on Jan. 17. Once normal meal services resume in dining halls across campus, unused food will still not go to waste. Campus Kitchen, the student-led volunteer organization, is currently on pause while students are self-quarantining. When quarantine is over, the organization will continue to collect excess food to package and deliver to low-income Evanston residents for free.’

Way to go, Wildcats!

Read the full story here.

Learn More

Food Waste and Covid-19: Impacts along the Supply Chain

GiveNKind

Fight2Feed

Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University

Northwestern releases comprehensive integrated solid waste management plan

Northwestern Dining (in particular, see the “Wellness and Sustainability” section of the web site)

 

Iowa Waste Reduction Center Releases School Food Waste Whitepaper

The Iowa Waste Reduction Center (IWRC) at the University of Northern Iowa recently released a whitepaper characterizing food waste at K-12 schools in rural Iowa. Food Waste in Rural Schools analyzes data collected by the IWRC over the last five years of providing direct technical assistance to K-12 schools across the state related to food waste prevention and reduction.

IWRC estimates K-12 students in Iowa tossed over 150,000 pounds of food and beverage waste every school day during breakfast and lunch in the 2018-2019 school year. Moreover, Iowa’s K-12 students tossed nearly 30 million pounds of food and beverage waste in 2018-2019 (based on 180 day school year) with the majority of this ending up in the landfill.

The whitepaper details methodology, student impact, outcomes of assistance, and food and beverage waste data collected over the last five years. With the current situation created by the novel coronavirus pandemic, this whitepaper can be used as a guide for K-12 schools to calculate food and beverage waste rather than conducting actual waste sorts; which would be nearly impossible to conduct with social distancing and public health protocols.

You may download the whitepaper at https://iwrc.uni.edu/sites/default/files/IWRC_FWwhitepaper_WEBVERSION%20(1).pdf.

Cover of IWRC whitepaper, "Food Waste in Rural Schools"

California School District Switches to Biodiesel Made from Waste for School Buses

The October 12, 2020 edition of Waste 360 featured a story on a new initiative of the Twin Rivers Unified School District in  California. From the press release:

“MCCLELLAN PARK, Calif., – The Twin Rivers Unified School District near Sacramento achieved a major milestone in its climate action plan by switching 75 diesel-powered school buses to run on renewable diesel fuel provided by Neste. As a result, the district’s fleet is now fully fossil free and one of the cleanest in the country. Because Neste MY Renewable Diesel is a drop-in fuel, Twin Rivers was able to achieve this remarkable milestone practically overnight.”

According to the article, Twin Rivers USD is the 28th largest school district in California, and started to use electric school buses last year. Now, by switching their remaining diesel-powered buses to renewable diesel, they will achieve an 80% reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from those buses. The renewable diesel being used is produced by Neste MY Renewable Diesel, and doesn’t cost any more than the regular diesel previously used. It’s also expected that the biodiesel will improve performance and reduce maintenance costs. As described in the press release,

“Neste’s renewable diesel fuel is made from renewable and sustainably sourced waste materials – such as used cooking oil, rendered fats and grease. These wastes come from hotels, restaurants, sports stadiums and many other venues with industrial kitchens. By collecting and converting these wastes into renewable products, Neste is creating a closed loop system that can help accelerate society’s transition away from fossil fuels.”

The Waste 360 article can be accessed at https://www.waste360.com/fuel/california-school-district-switches-renewable-diesel-powered-buses. Visit the Neste and NesteMY web sites to learn more about the company and the fuel it produces. Food manufacturers and processors interested in supplying used oils for fuel production can explore the concept at https://www.neste.us/neste-in-north-america/suppliers/sell-renewable-raw-materials

Note: Links and companies listed are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Tdorante10 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Seven Generations Ahead Webinar on School Waste Reduction, Sept. 2

As students head back to school in one way or another, it’s time to consider how to reduce waste related to school activities. Tomorrow, September 2 at 4 PM CT, Seven Generations Ahead, a non-profit organization based in Oak Park, IL, will host a free webinar on waste reduction for schools during COVID-19.

To register, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/zero-waste-school-practices-during-covid-19-registration-116924074053.

From the registration site:

“Back-to-school is going to be different this year, and reopening plans continue to evolve. Zero waste efforts will need to pivot to meet the challenges we are facing.

Join Susan Casey and Becky Brodsky from SGA’s Zero Waste Schools program and school leaders from around the country to exchange ideas and learn ways to creatively adapt zero waste practices to our new circumstances.

Contributing to the conversation:

  • Nancy Deming, K-12 Sustainability Specialist, Custodial and Nutrition Services, Oakland Unified School District
  • Dan Schnitzer, Director of Sustainability and Capital Projects, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
  • Kate Mason-Schultz, Coordinator of Nutrition Services, Evanston/Skokie School District 65

The conversation will center around reducing waste from the classroom and food service by adapting prevention, recycling, composting, and food recovery strategies. We’ll also share ways students and families can learn how to reduce waste at home, including composting and single-use plastics reduction.”

recycling bin with milk cartons inside, screen shot from webinar registration page

Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois Schools now available for download

This post originally appeared on the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Blog on April 13, 2020. 

Just in time for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the Wasted Food Action Alliance is pleased to announce the release of the Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois Schools. Though schools throughout the state are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this toolkit will allow districts and food service staff members to make plans for food waste reduction efforts when schools are able to welcome back students and staff in person.

The Wasted Food Action Alliance is a diverse set of organizations helping build a unified approach towards reducing wasted food and leveraging it to benefit our region. Its mission is to develop a working strategy and action platform that makes Illinois a leader in reducing wasted food by connecting and building on current wasted food initiatives, education, and policy in unified ways that holistically promote source reduction; food recovery for hunger relief and other uses; and recovery of food scraps for composting and creating healthy soil.

Joy Scrogum, a member of ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP), is part of the Wasted Food Action Alliance subcommittee which developed the school food waste reduction toolkit. Joy coordinated ISTC’s Green Lunchroom Challenge project, and continues to work on food waste prevention and reduction through TAP’s work with clients, the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, and related local and regional projects. The Wasted Food Action Alliance school toolkit subcommittee was lead by Seven Generations Ahead.

Cover of Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois SchoolsWhat’s the problem with food waste in schools?

Over 7 billion school meals are served each year in the United States. Much of this food, however, is currently feeding landfills instead of nourishing students. This is while one in six children is food insecure. When food is landfilled, not only are its nutrients lost, so are all the energy, water, and labor that went into producing, transporting, and preparing it. K-12 schools have a unique role in teaching students to value food instead of wasting it.

The Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois Schools can help.

The Toolkit is a comprehensive resource that provides all schools, no matter their size or location, the tools to tackle the issue of wasted food. It identifies the main sources of wasted food and offers strategies for food waste prevention, recovery and redistribution, composting, education and engagement, and celebrating success. A variety of solutions are shared–from easy and quick to implement to longer term and more resource intensive.

The Toolkit’s easy to use format allows you to jump in to find the strategies that work for your school. Each section includes case studies that highlight inspirational efforts to reduce food waste in schools across Illinois and provides guidance on:

Measuring food waste

  • Waste audit guides
  • How to determine what to audit in your lunchroom and kitchen
  • Food waste tracking in kitchens
  • Analyzing waste audit data

Preventing food waste

  • Sourcing food from school gardens and local farms to encourage consumption of healthy foods
  • Menu planning and food preparation
  • Preventing food waste at the serving line, including Offer versus Serve

Recovering and redistributing surplus food

  • Policies and laws regarding share tables and the redistribution of food (including the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that supports the donation of recovered food)
  • How to set up and operate a share table
  • Redistribution of surplus food within a school
  • Donation of surplus food to an outside organization or in-school food pantry

Composting food scraps

  • The environmental benefits of composting
  • Onsite composting
  • Offsite commercial composting
  • How to get started composting in your lunchroom

Educating and engaging the school community

  • Hands-on classroom or service learning projects
  • Curricula and lessons about food and food waste
  • Teaching tools and resources

Communicating and celebrating success

  • Communications within school community
  • Communications with the wider community
  • Get recognized with programs such as Green Ribbon Schools and the U.S. Food Waste Challenge

The toolkit is available on the Wasted Food Action Alliance web site.

Coffee Grounds: Diversion to Biofuel Feedstock

Most food service operations produce some amount of spent coffee grounds. Even in K-12 schools, cafeterias, staff lounges, and administrative offices often serve coffee for the adults on site. I intend to write posts in the near future about some of the more traditional ways to divert spent coffee grounds from landfill (e.g. composting, use as a substrate for growing mushrooms, etc.). But a recent news article has prompted me to highlight a diversion strategy for this material which you may not have considered: feedstock for the production of biofuels.

You may be familiar with using spent cooking oil or grease for the creation of biodiesel. See the archived activity on diversion of waste cooking oil for biodiesel creation for more information. Coffee grounds also contain oils that can be useful in creating biofuels. As reported in the May 10, 2017 issue of Science Daily, a group of researchers from Lancaster University in the UK recently found a way to improve the efficiency of converting coffee grounds to biofuel. Their methods reduced the time required for the process, as well as the amount of chemicals used and chemical waste produced. According to the article: ‘”Our method vastly reduces the time and cost needed to extract the oils for biofuel making spent coffee grounds a much more commercially competitive source of fuel,” said Dr Najdanovic-Visak, Lecturer in Lancaster University’s Engineering Department. “A huge amount of spent coffee grounds, which are currently just being dumped in landfill, could now be used to bring significant environmental benefits over diesel from fossil fuel sources.” The process has the potential to enable 720,000 tonnes of biodiesel to be produced each year from spent coffee grounds.’

On October 2, 2018, Ohio-based Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee at Home introduced a “tiny home” in New York City’s Madison Square Park which is powered by biofuel created from spent coffee grounds. The biofeul is a custom B80 blend created by Blue Marble Biomaterials–80% of the fuel is oil from Dunkin’ coffee grounds and 20% is alcohol to allow the fuel to burn efficiently. The “Home that Runs on Dunkin'” will be open to the public in Madison Square Park in New York City, on Broadway between 23rd and 24th Streets from Thursday, October 4 through Saturday, October 6.  If you’re curious but not in NYC, check out the 360 video tour available at https://www.dunkinathome.com/whats-new/home-runs-on-dunkin. According to that site, “Every 170 pounds of spent coffee grounds yields about one gallon of fuel and is used in a standard biofuel generator.” The site also states that 65,000 pounds of spent Dunkin’ coffee grounds were used to create the biofuel.

Image of a tiny house with a very modern aesthetic, located in a green field surrounded by trees.
The Home that Runs on Dunkin’. From https://www.multivu.com/players/English/8406651-home-that-runs-on-dunkin-donuts-coffee/.

Blue Marble Biomaterials is based in Missoula, MT. Learn more about them at https://bluemarblebio.com/.

Of course, this particular solution isn’t practical for small generators such as a single school, restaurant, or hospital. But restaurant and hotel chains or large institutions, particularly those in areas where on-site composting is infeasible and where commercial composting service is not available, might be interested in exploring the possibility of partnering with a biofuel producer to divert coffee grounds from landfill. To assist in such investigations, see the National Biodiesel Board’s map of member plants at http://biodiesel.org/production/plants/plant-maps#map. You could also reach out to colleges and universities in your area to see if scientists on campus are conducting biofuel research and might be interested in using your spent grounds as feedstock in their experiments.

‘We Compost’ Free Recognition Program Now Includes On-Site Composting

We Compost is a free recognition program administered by the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition that promotes businesses and institutions that participate in a commercial compost program. The purpose of the program is highlight entities that compost their food scraps and thus encourage consumers to patronize businesses that are responsibly managing food waste. It also serves as means to encourage institutions, like schools, universities, museums, hospitals, food pantries, churches, governmental organizations, municipalities, etc. to compost their food waste, and raise awareness of the importance of composting by publicly sharing the practice. Participating businesses and institutions receive a window decal to place on their front door or other prominent location to let stakeholders know they compost.

Until recently, only entities that worked with a commercial composting service could be recognized by the We Compost program. However, many areas of Illinois still don’t have access to a commercial compost service provider. Even so, in those areas, programs like schools, churches, community gardens, etc. may have started on-site compost piles. Additionally, in areas with access to commercial composting, there are sometimes reasons to pursue on-site composting instead. Perhaps an organization doesn’t generate enough food scraps or other organic waste to justify the cost of engaging a compost hauler, for example, or maybe involving stakeholders in the process of creating and tending compost piles or bins is desirable (e.g. at a school or community garden). In any of these situations, programs were sadly not able to receive recognition through We Compost for their efforts to keep organic materials out of landfill.

But now, the IFSC has announced the We Compost program will include a special “Green Partner” level to recognize organizations and businesses that compost food scraps on-site. This level is in addition to the “silver” level for entities employing commercial composting service to divert either pre-consumer (e.g. kitchen prep waste) or post-consumer (e.g. plate waste) scraps, and the “gold” level for entities composting both pre- and post-consumer scraps.

So if, for example, you’re a restaurant in a rural area where commercial composting isn’t available, but you still have a compost bin on your propertyor a school with a garden that has students creating compost from the garden and/or cafeteria, you can now be recognized by IFSC. Fill out this form to apply for Green Level recognition: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfCMhCYTt7okcqj10XQccOjThtgDvptyS7wzZ8W764DEDFQvA/viewform

For more information on the We Compost program, or learn how to apply for recognition for composting food scraps with a commercial service provider, see http://illinoiscomposts.org/we-compost.

If you want to search for a service provider in your area, see the Illinois Composter Facility Map at https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1qOtNjnsUx0A_7bKrMOc5dsNjU2Y&ll=40.356936414535824%2C-86.22039979285444&z=7.

We Compost program logo and Illinois Food Scrap Coalition logos