Recycling food waste from schools — it’s high time

Frank Carrano

I read recently about a regional initiative that is being planned in our area. Towns from Meriden to Madison would join to create programs for recycling food waste created by the local schools.

Most of the waste that ends up at town waste facilities comes from food. The idea that all of that could be recycled and turned into compost for use in gardens and local farms seems to be inspired.

Many of us are committed to recycling our hard waste such as glass and plastic, but relative few of us filter that practice down to food waste. My son Matt keeps a food recycling container right on the kitchen counter and he and his wife dispose of food waste regularly.

But thinking of the impact that a program such as this might have when done in a larger scale makes it seem all the more worthwhile.

Schools, in particular, have the potential to have the greatest impact because food service is an integral part of their daily programming. In addition to lunch, some schools serve breakfast as well. Right now, all of the food waste goes into the trash bins, to be delivered to the local dump site. Diverting the bulk of that into a recycling program makes perfect sense at every level.

Here in our area, Beecher School in Woodbridge has already implemented their own program with students at the core. They take responsibility for removal and separating the waste. In the process, they have become committed to the belief that recycling is “just better for the Earth”.

Here in Branford, the high school and Community Dining Room are also participating in a food waste recycling program which is a really good place to start. Talk about life lessons being learned in school that will change the way you live and think about your responsibility to the planet and each other. They just figured out how to make it work without costing very much - a lesson in itself on how it is possible to do something worthwhile when the group works together towards a common goal.

The other aspect of the program is recycling unused food. Yes, there is a lot of food that doesn’t get eaten in schools, and right now, it gets thrown out. The first attempts in place are focusing on the redistribution of packaged foods, things that are wrapped or boxed. These items are easiest to recycle because they are easy to transport; they can just be collected and assembled into containers. The idea is certainly worthy of implementation. Why not?

The other part of such a program would be to find a way to recycle the unused cooked food that now is discarded on a daily basis. Yes, the goal for the food service companies that provide food to our schools is to have as little uneaten food as possible. But, notwithstanding that goal, we know that there is always food left over. Some communities across the country are using the leftover food to feed students at home.

Volunteers package the food into single serving containers and freeze them. The frozen packages are then made available to students who might be looking for a weekend meal or to supplement the food source in a struggling household.

Yes, this is more complicated for sure, but it is workable and there are community volunteers who would be willing to make it happen. Even during these times of seeming affluence, there are those who are food challenged; they struggle to put food on the table. Sometimes they have to make difficult choices between food and other necessities.

I know these programs may sound difficult to implement, but experience has shown us that almost anything is possible if we work together.

In my view, food should never be wasted, it’s too precious. And if we can find a way to use all the food we have, we all benefit.

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Connecticut Media Group