An Evaluation of Current Lunchroom Food Waste and Food Rescue Programs in a Washington State School District
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Public schools waste approximately 30% to 50% of edible food and thus provide opportunities to study the problem of food waste and explorefood rescue initiatives.This case studyevaluates lunchroom waste sorting and food waste diversion practices in a Washington State school district. It provides a comprehensive analysis includingdescriptivecharacteristics and comparative statistical analyses to determine the typesand amountofedible, wasted foodand 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. Auditsconsisted of weighing, sorting, and recording the preand 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,includinglunchroom layoutandimplementation of food rescue programs, werealso recorded.Statisticalanalysis evaluatedthe effectof these programs on lunchroom waste sorting.Data revealed significantly higher post-sort compost rates than pre-sort ratesand significantlylowerpost-sort trash rates than pre-sort rates. Pre-and post-sort recycling rates were not significantly different. Thissuggests thata 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.
- Nutritional sciences