The problem we want to fix is the significant amount of uneaten cafeteria food that gets thrown away each day at our school. It is estimated that around 20% of the food served in our cafeteria ends up in the trash. This food waste not only represents wasted resources and money, but also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions from landfills that accelerate climate change. At the same time, many students at our Title 1 school face food insecurity at home and lack reliable access to fresh, nutritious produce. This represents a health equity issue, as families dealing with poverty may only have the resources to purchase processed foods. Food insecurity negatively impacts a student's health, attendance, and academic performance. Our school is missing a huge opportunity to turn our cafeteria food waste into a resource that can nourish our community. We can achieve multiple benefits - reducing waste, providing nourishment, saving school resources, and enabling hands-on sustainability education - by diverting food scraps to an on-site garden. Students can be empowered to grow fresh fruits and vegetables that supplement the food insecure families in our school community. This project addresses the intersection of these two critical issues facing our school.
The action we are planning is to create an on-site garden at our school where cafeteria food waste will be composted and used to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. We will install raised garden beds near the cafeteria where students can easily transport bucket of food waste. Garden beds will be built using upcycled materials when possible. Our student group will lead each phase of the project, including: -Designing and constructing the raised garden beds -Setting up a multi-bin composting system for the cafeteria food waste -Researching what fruits and vegetables grow best in our climate -Planting and maintaining the garden beds using organic methods -Harvesting the produce at peak ripeness -Donating a substantial portion of harvested produce to the local food bank In addition, we will integrate the garden into the curriculum for all grades. Students can conduct field observations of the garden ecosystems, study soil science and the composting process, track garden growth data, research nutritional content of garden produce, and learn about issues like food waste, food access, and sustainability. Our project will convert cafeteria food waste into nourishment for our community while providing hands-on learning opportunities about gardening, nutrition, and environmental stewardship. We aim to develop a sustainable model that can inspire other schools to implement similar projects.