Food Rescue Works with Eastern Elementary Students to Reduce Food Waste

by Juliana Lisuk

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Feeding America® estimates that in 2014, 14 percent of households in the United States were “food insecure”— they did not have access to a sufficient level of affordable and nutritious food. At the same time, 25 percent to 40 percent of all food grown, processed, and transported within the U.S. is never consumed.

Numerous organizations are taking action to capture the food that would otherwise go to waste and providing it to those in need. Locally, an active member of the Food and Farming Network has been doing just that.

Food Rescue of Goodwill Northern Michigan addresses issues of access and waste within northwest Michigan, transporting donated food to pantries and meal sites. Recently, Food Rescue participated in the Traverse City Eastern Elementary “Heroes in Our Community” program run by parent Jen Dutmers. Students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade learned about the environmental and social impacts of food waste within their community.

“We know what the reality is today–that 40 percent of food is wasted. This is a reality we’ve been okay with,” explained Taylor Moore, manager of Food Rescue. “It’s not so much about teaching the kids solely why it’s wrong and about the problem, but also drawing on their intuitiveness for not wasting food and giving them tools to transform the food system. Not wasting food will be normal for these kids when they are adults.”

Food Rescue’s lessons ranged from how to use food that would otherwise go to waste, to planning out meals for the week, to learning about proper portion size. In week one, students weighed discarded cafeteria food and found they wasted 96.2 pounds in two days. That is 150 pounds of food per student per year thrown away in just one elementary school. At the end of the program, students reduced food waste 30 percent by taking less food, eating the food they took, and being aware of the issue.

Education programs within schools and bringing the environmental impacts of food waste into the spotlight is an exciting new focus for Food Rescue. Following the success of the Eastern Elementary program, their most extensive to date, Food Rescue is eager to work with other schools. For more information, contact Taylor Moore at taylorm@goodwillnmi.org taylorm@goodwillnmi.org

Check out these videos students made as a final project to their food waste education:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWHtr1kit_o&feature=youtu.be
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAqv2Bq_y8Q

You can replicate this program at home or at your own school by using a bucket and a scale to measure food waste—see how you can progress and reduce!

Juliana Lisuk works for SEEDS as an Education Specialist, manages the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market, and currently holds the role of “Education Champion” for the Food and Farming Network. If you know of any programs related to food education within Northwest Michigan, please contact her at juliana@ecoseeds.org

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