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 Curriculum from IL EPA, UI MSTE, Now Available Online

A previous guest post by Amanda Price described her experiences teaching a new food waste curriculum for fifth and sixth-graders developed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE). The curriculum is now available online. Visit https://pathways.mste.illinois.edu/curriculum/food-waste to access the unit, an associated teacher guide, the material and supply list, student activity sheets, and other related resources.

Screenshot from the food waste unit on the Environmental Pathways web site.

Illinois EPA Pilots New Food Waste Curriculum in Springfield Schools

The following post was written by Amanda Price. We’re grateful to her for sharing her experiences teaching the new food waste curriculum to IL students and thrilled to hear about students inspired to take action! All photos are courtesy of Amanda Price.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partnered with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) to create a two-week food waste curriculum unit for fifth and sixth-grade educators. The unit is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and will be free and available online at the end of May 2020. It will be housed with the first unit created by MSTE and Illinois EPA on surface water and algae on the Environmental Pathways website: https://pathways.mste.illinois.edu/.

Classroom image of Amanda Price presenting food waste unit to elementary students seated at desksAmanda Price piloted the unit in two fifth grade science classes at Butler Elementary and Sandburg Elementary February-March 2020. Both schools are located in Springfield, IL. Amanda works as a Graduate Public Service Intern (GPSI) in the offices of Environmental Education and Community Relations at Illinois EPA. The GPSI program places University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) graduate students in state agency internships in for the duration of their studies. Amanda will earn a master’s degree in Environmental Sciences this May 2020. She taught the unit as part of her capstone graduate project.

The food waste unit follows the NGSS investigative storyline model that is Three boys gather around the jar they are working on and smile at the cameradriven by student questions. It teaches students the importance of food waste reduction, landfill diversion, and composting as part of a circular food system. Students create “landfills in a jar” with materials given to them with the goal of protecting the sand, or “groundwater,” at the bottom of the jar. Students also create “compost in a jar” using fresh food scraps and other compostable materials. Students monitor their jars throughout the unit and record scientific data such as temperature and mass. They learn how bacteria act as decomposers. The unit also incorporates map-reading and asks students to think critically about the pros and cons of choosing space for new landfill construction.

Elementary students sorting food waste in a school cafeteriaThe main hands-on activity in the unit is a food waste audit, which can be performed at various scales. Students use data from the audit to calculate the estimated food wasted per person, during the school year, etc. Students end the unit by creating a community awareness or action plan to inform their community or advocate for change. A few students at Butler Elementary wrote a letter to the principal asking him to install a clock in the cafeteria so students could track how much time they had to eat. The principal took swift action and ordered the clock.

Illinois EPA looks forward to sharing the free curriculum with both formal and informal educators around the state. The unit helps increase students’ environmental awareness and stewardship and is best paired with action to reduce waste in the school.

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.

Seven Generations Ahead Helps Oak Terrace School Achieve Ninety Percent Diversion

Seven Generations Ahead recently reported on assistance provided to Oak Terrace Elementary School in Highwood, IL as part of the Zero Waste Schools-Lake County Program. The dedicated students have helped their lunchroom achieve an approximate 90% diversion of materials from landfill.

Instead of tossing all lunch waste into the trash, students now use sorting stations with containers for liquids, recycling, compost (for all food scraps, food-soiled napkins, and lunch trays), and landfill trash. Their sorting stations also have share tables where students can put school lunch items (whole fruit and factory-sealed foods) they take but do not eat which can be used later as snacks.” Some specially trained students, designated “Zero Waste Agents” monitor cafeteria sorting stations to ensure materials are placed into appropriate bins and to reduce contamination of recycling and composting streams. Back-of-house sorting is also occurring and food service workers, custodial staff, and teachers have also been involved in training and hands-on contributions to waste reduction efforts.

To read more about this case study, see the project update on the Seven Generations Ahead web site.