Empower Students to Raise Awareness of Food Loss and Waste at Your School
When we think about threats to the environment and our planet, pollution, deforestation, and climate change often first come to mind. Yet, one of the biggest threats that many of us overlook is something we interact with daily – food. In fact, agriculture is the number one cause of deforestation and habitat loss, and food – how we produce, transport, process, and consume it – contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, and overexploitation of the world’s freshwater resources. Add to this knowledge that globally, over a third of all food produced (2.5 billion tons!) is wasted each year (lost between harvest and retail and being wasted in households, food service and retail), and it becomes clear that raising awareness of food waste and food loss is essential.
Raise Awareness of Food Loss at School
Eight percent of all food loss and waste comes from institutional and food service settings like hospitals and schools. A 2018 International Food Waste Coalition report found that elementary schools were discarding 218.2 million meals annually. Students have the power to raise awareness about food loss and food waste. By recognizing why food waste matters, students can take action to substantially reduce the amount of food being wasted in their schools. They can recover, reduce, and recycle the food that goes uneaten at their schools. They can reduce food waste through improved ordering, prepping, and storage techniques, they can recover wholesome uneaten food and donate it to feed people in need, and they can recycle discarded food for other uses, including animal feed, compost, and energy generation.
Students can Empower Themselves and Their Peers
1. Start a Food Recovery Program
One way to reduce food loss and waste is by starting a food recovery program at your school. This program involves collecting unused, unopened, and unexpired food from the cafeteria and other locations and donating it to local food banks and shelters. Not only does this help reduce food waste, but it also helps those in need. To start a food recovery program, talk to your school administration and cafeteria staff to get their support. You can also reach out to local food banks and shelters to see if they are interested in partnering with you.
2. Educate Your Peers
Many students are unaware of the impact of food loss and waste. By educating your peers, you can help raise awareness and encourage them to take action. You can organize a presentation or workshop to teach your classmates about food waste and its impact on the environment and society. You can also create posters or infographics to display around the school to remind students to reduce food waste. If you have a school newspaper or website, you can write an article about food waste and how students can help.
3. Create a Composting Program
Another way to reduce food loss and waste is by creating a composting program at your school. Composting involves collecting food scraps and other organic materials and turning them into nutrient-rich soil. This soil can then be used to support school gardens or donated to local community gardens. To create a composting program, talk to your school administration and facilities staff to get their support. You can also contact local organizations or businesses that offer composting services for advice and resources.
4. Encourage Sustainable Eating Habits
One of the biggest contributors to food waste is overproduction and overconsumption. By encouraging sustainable eating habits, you can help reduce food waste and promote healthier lifestyles. You can organize a food challenge or competition to encourage students to eat more plant-based foods or reduce their portions. You can also work with your school cafeteria to promote sustainable eating habits, encourage them to use reusable or compostable food containers and utensils, or offer smaller portion sizes.
5. Organize a Food Loss and Waste Audit
Finally, you can organize a food waste audit at your school to see how much food is being wasted and where. This can help identify areas for improvement and encourage students and staff to take action. You can work with a science or math teacher to design the audit and collect data.
Reducing Food Loss and Waste
Reducing food waste is an important issue that requires everyone’s attention and effort, and students can make a difference and contribute to a more sustainable future. By taking action and empowering one another, we can help reduce food waste and create a healthier, more just world. As a blueprint for what is possible at your school, check out WWF’s Food Waste Warrior School Program, or gain inspiration from these other posts by 365give: