Friday, May 18, 2012

Food In - Waste Out

Don't worry - this post is not about how I taught the digestive system to my students.

We've spent so much time thinking about the food that goes into our systems, but so far have not touched on food waste. Luckily there are local resources available for this exploration.

This week my students worked with an intern to the food cooperative that runs our hot lunch program. Kacie met with the kids on Tuesday and explained that she'd be helping them collect and weigh all the food that is headed for the compost. Instead of students banging their trays into the huge trash bin that acts as our compost repository, the plate waste on each tray would be separated into four bins. We decided to sort food by main dish, grain, hot vegetable and all raw produce. Students hypothesized about which bin would hold the most waste each day.

Then we signed up for shifts to stand at the sorting station, wearing rubber gloves, and helping every single student sort their waste. I had wondered if students would balk at missing part of the recess or be squeamish at the prospect of touching others' cast off fajitas, but hands shot up to sign up for the first day's shifts. Only one student blared, "You can't make me touch other peoples' garbage!" and then quickly stopped complaining when I agreed with him and he saw his classmates' enthusiasm.

Even on the first day, the sorting process went smoothly. In fact it looked so fun to sort, some of the youngest students purposely took more food than they could eat so they would get to sort it with the big kids! This was quickly squashed.

 Each day Kacie has overseen the sorting and met with three students after lunch to weigh the waste and record the totals. We'll collect data for a total of five days, and then she'll work with the whole class to look at the data and draw some conclusions about plate waste at our school. I'm hoping we can work in a quick presentation to the whole school before the end of the year and that this can be a jumping off point next year for my class. I'd like to see them take on a leadership role  encouraging everyone to make more careful food choices so as little food as possible is wasted.

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