Studying School Food Waste

Many folks, rightly so, are concerned about the quality of food that our public schools serve. A somewhat related problem is the amount of food (think gooey vegetables or rubbery fried fish) that’s thrown out.

To help understand exactly what schools discard, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency just published a major study on the topic.

Volunteers in Minnesota sorted through six schools’ garbage and recycling–two each at the elementary, middle and high school levels–sorting items into 19 categories. The result of those findings is “Digging Deep Through School Trash.”

While the study isn’t on food waste, specifically, there’s plenty of insight on the topic. “Digging” found that food was the single largest material generated by schools, amounting to 24 percent of the total waste generated. That’s about double the percentage in the (regular) municipal solid waste stream!

Overall, almost 80 percent of the school waste could be diverted from landfill. So in addition to working on reducing school waste–food and otherwise–it’s vital that schools have both recycling and composting programs. Especially in light of the finding that 47 percent of schools waste could be composted.

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  1. Posted September 22, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Composting and recycling projects at schools offer a valuable educational opportunities as well. There is a lot of exciting biology in a compost pile and understanding how materials are created, used, reused, and discarded is something everyone would benefit from.

  2. Leslie
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I would say the biggest reason food is thrown away is simple: kids don’t have enough time to eat!

  3. Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    So true about the educational opportunities with composting.

    And I’d agree that time is a real cause of waste at many schools. That and having lunch before recess.

  4. Itzel Minjares
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I just volunteered at my daughter’s school today. I helped the children open packaging that they were not able to open alone. The kids really do not have enough time. However, the ones who brought lunch were able to eat better than the others who had to wait in line for “hot lunch” and then struggled to open the plastic lining on their plastic plates. What shocked me most was the amount of UNOPENED food that was thrown away! The good stuff that mom’s WANT the kids to eat was tossed. There has to be a way to give it back to the school to refreeze (when it’s a “hot lunch”). Kids who bring lunch should be advised to bring home what they don’t finish, so that they CAN finish it later.

  5. Posted January 10, 2012 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    30Q13E 30Q13E 30Q13E 328439 30Q13E

  6. Sonia
    Posted April 3, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    I think the problems are that 1. They serve foods that kids don’t like. 2. They serve wrong quantities of fiber.
    3. Excess of liquids at breakfast.
    4. They HAVE to take all and then put half in trash……….. God bless America.

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  1. By Lunches My Kids Will Actually Eat | Lunchsense on October 13, 2010 at 4:47 pm

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