It might be a bit much to expect kids in the earliest school grades to make fairly sophisticated evaluations regarding what uneaten food is eligible to be donated and what isn’t, but with the aid of adult monitors, the decisions are facilitated while the kids learn about the importance of food recovery and minimizing waste.
A program launched at the start of the current school year at two sites in the Newburyport Public Schools in Massachusetts is doing just that. Monitors are placed at the waste bins in the cafeterias so that when children come up with their trays, the recoverable items can be saved from feeding landfills.
Those items, such as unopened milk cartons and foods with undisturbed packaging and intact fruits like oranges and apples, are saved for donation to a local social service organization, Nourishing the North Shore, which uses the edibles in its community feeding program. Perishables like milk and yogurt are immediately placed in a cooler upon recovery and recovered fruits are thoroughly washed before they are sent away.
“We’re really mindful of keeping it safe so we developed a [set of] standard operating procedures to keep temps every step of the way and make sure things get refrigerated appropriately,” says Pam Palombo, Newburyport’s public health nurse.
Trained Nourishing the North Shore volunteers pick up the food every Friday at each of the school sites and deliver to two drop-off sites.
The program launched at the district’s Francis T. Bresnahan lower elementary, Edward G. Molin upper elementary and Rupert A. Nock middle schools on September 30 last fall and was expanded to Newburyport High School in late April.
As of mid-May, the program has recovered 1,764 pounds of food, including 1,415 milk cartons, 1,292 apples and 295 oranges.
The program was initiated by the Newburyport Department of Recyclability, Energy & Sustainability to facilitate the reduction of food waste, to provide an educational opportunity in the schools about food waste and recovery and to help the needy in the community. Among its programs, Nourishing the North Shore redistributes the recovered food from both the schools and from local farms to seniors and families in need in the community as well as food pantries, community cupboards and its mobile produce stands.
Last year, it recovered 8,800 pounds of healthy food. Nourishing the North Shore also partners with local farms on food recovery and gleaning, and works with the schools and community on gardens, including two new school gardens and 14 kitchen gardens at public housing sites in the past year.