Talking about Food Waste in Schools

 

I salvaged this banana from a school compost bucket today.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve found totally uneaten and unbruised food in school compost buckets and bins. I’ve salvaged apples, banana, carrots…

As I was grabbing this banana from the compost bucket, a grade 2 girl came over and was about to toss a full, huge, untouched apple in the compost. Here’s the conversation we had:

Me: “Why are you putting that apple in here?”

Student: “Well I don’t want it.”

Me: “Maybe you could just take it home then.”

Student: “But my mom will be so angry that I didn’t eat it.”

Me: “Hmm, but I think your mom would be more upset if she knew you threw it out.”

Student: “I guess you’re right.”

So how do we expand this conversation at school? How do we prevent (or at least reduce) food being tossed, because of a fear of parent criticism if uneaten food is brought home?

There’s so much that can be said about food waste and I won’t go deep into it here; enough of these discussions are already online. But the conversation I want to start is to think of ways to address this with elementary school kids. What angles of the food waste issue would get through to young students? What activities and initiatives can get them thinking about it?

One discussion I had with some older elementary students during a waste audit a couple of years ago was to think about all of the energy that went into the growing, harvesting and transporting the food, and how throwing it out is not only throwing out the fruit itself, but a waste of all of the energy that was used along the way. And whenever we come across some whole fruits and veggies in the compost bins when checking those out with students, I ask them whether we should put whole apples, bananas, etc in the compost, and what we should do with them instead (eat them!). I do address food waste here and there, but I want to think of ways to make this a more concerted effort and to incorporate it into the school culture, in similar ways that composting has become second nature with the school gardens.

Please share your thoughts and ideas!

Happy growing!

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