An Evaluation of Current Lunchroom Food Waste and Food Rescue Programs in a Washington State School District

Keywords: Compost, Food Waste, Food Recovery, Food Share Table, Public Schools, Washington State

Abstract

Public schools waste approximately 30% to 50% of edible food and thus provide opportunities to study the problem of food waste and explore food rescue initiatives. This case study evaluates lunch­room waste sorting and food waste diversion prac­tices in a Washington State school district. It pro­vides a comprehensive analysis including descrip­tive characteristics and comparative statistical analyses to determine the types and amount of edible, wasted food and the potential to reduce or recover this wasted food. Waste audits were performed at 18 schools to quantify the amount and type of waste generated at each school. Audits consisted of weighing, sorting, and recording the pre and post-sort weights of all lunchroom com­post, recycling, and trash. Edible, rescuable food items were removed from bags and counted separately. Lunchroom-specific observational data, including lunchroom layout and implementation of food rescue programs, were also recorded. Statistical analysis evaluated the effect of these programs on lunchroom waste sorting. Data revealed significantly higher post-sort compost rates than pre-sort rates and significantly lower post-sort trash rates than pre-sort rates. Pre- and post-sort recycling rates were not significantly different. This suggests that a significant amount of trash could be diverted from landfills with imple­mentation of a lunchroom composting system. Additionally, participation in sustainability initia­tives, such as a county-wide resource conservation program, and use of lunchroom monitors affected waste sorting. Further, audits uncovered a large amount of wasted, edible food. This type of food could potentially be diverted to feeding students or community members experiencing food insecurity by means of food rescue programs, such as lunch­room food share programs or school-to-food-bank donation services. Overall, this study identified potential points for food waste reduction strategies in public school lunchrooms.

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Author Biographies

Courtney L. Schupp, University of Washington
Nutritional Sciences Program, School of Public Health, University of Washington; Box 353410; Seattle, WA 98195
Katherine M. Getts, University of Washington
Center for Public Health Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of Washington
Jennifer J. Otten, University of Washington
Nutritional Sciences Program, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Washington
Published
2018-04-05
How to Cite
Schupp, C. L., Getts, K. M., & Otten, J. J. (2018). An Evaluation of Current Lunchroom Food Waste and Food Rescue Programs in a Washington State School District. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(1), 167-186. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2018.081.013