Food For Thought

By Natalie Swarts, PTA Eco-Schools Lead
An example of the some of the food wasted in a single day at La Mariposa.

An example of the some of the food wasted in a single day at La Mariposa.

Parent volunteers and campus supervisors have observed a tremendous amount of food being wasted on-campus.  Before Winter Break, we decided to try an experiment.  Volunteers stood next to the trash cans during lunch.  When students approached the trash cans, many were hesitant to throw away uneaten food, and they returned to their lunch tables to continue eating. Other students tried to wait until they thought a parent wasn’t looking, then they tossed their food in the trash and hurried back to their table.  At least a few students even tried to bury their uneaten food beneath other trash.  On the other hand, there were students who did not hesitate to throw away entire sandwiches, unopened cartons of milk and uneaten fruit.  Students seemed to show a broad range of awareness and opinions when it came to food waste.

IMG_1564Quick Facts:

  • Americans waste about 25% of all food purchases.
  • It is estimated that Americans throw away 20 pounds of food per person per month.
  • 1 in 6 Americans do not have access to enough food to sustain a healthy life.
The average family could save over $1,600 a year by sending less food to the landfill. When we throw away food, we’re also wasting all the water, energy, and other resources used to produce, package and transport food to our plates.  Food is wasted when we: buy more than we need, store it incorrectly, throw away leftovers, cook too much.
The Environmental Protection Agency offers food waste reduction and prevention tips on their website.  Several of their suggestions can be applied to the La Mariposa community.  Click here to view the EPA Waste Reduction Tips.

IMG_1565Why reduce food waste?  

  • Save Money
  • Reduce Methane From Landfills – When food is disposed in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
  • Reduce Resource Use Associated with Food Production – There are many resources needed to grow food, including water, fertilizers, pesticides, and energy. By wasting food, we are also wasting the resources that went into growing it.
  • Feed People, Not Landfills – An estimated 50 million Americans do not have access to enough food. Organizations can donate safe and healthy food to a food bank or food rescue organization and both reduce food sent to landfills and feed those in need.

Reduce Plate Waste by: 

  • Observing what students consistently waste and changing school lunch menus (both packed and purchased) accordingly.
  • Adjusting serving sizes based on what students actually eat.
  • Reminding students to take only one or two items from the produce bar and to eat what they take.

Ideas for students to reduce food waste:

  • Talk to your parents about what you like and what you don’t like.
  • Be willing to try small portions of new foods.
  • Save leftovers from lunch for an after-school snack.
  • Recycle discards to other uses. Start a compost bin at home or participate in composting at school.

Want to learn more?  

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