We are excited to hear about Madera and Peres Elementary schools’ new experiments into school lunches and waste reduction! These two West Contra Costa Schools in El Cerrito and Richmond are launching a week long test run later this month into cooking cafeteria food from scratch, continuing a movement of sustainable food systems across the school district. The partnerships between the West Contra Costa United School District, parents, community organizations, and more all make programs like this possible, as we all continue to explore the most effective, sustainable, and delicious way to provide students healthy meals.
As we have been saying for years, one of the more effective ways to create a more environmentally friendly cafeteria is to bring back the lunch lady! The programs are Madera and Peres Elementary schools are doing just that, greatly reducing landfill and waste by cooking food from scratch without nearly as much packaging. The benefits of cooking cafeteria food from scratch, using whole, local, and ideally, organic ingredients are numerous, both for student and environmental health. The full cycle of food systems offer many opportunities for sustainable changes, from sourcing more local food to reduce transportation and packaging to serving food in reusable containers to designing waste disposal that sorts into recycling, compost, and landfill.
The critical waste disposal step has been a priority of The Watershed Project’s award winning Waste Matters program. Starting in 2013 at Fairmont Elementary School, along with our partners, we have successfully educated students, parents, and staff on the benefits of waste reduction, and implemented recycling and composting systems to reduce landfill. The program has grown to include several schools.
We are proud of the successes of this program; in the 2015-2016 school year alone, 5,523 pounds of waste was either recycled or composted, diverted from the landfill at Olinda Elementary’s cafeteria in Richmond. Teaching students how to sort recyclables and compostable materials from trash is a skill they can use for the rest of their lives. However, this is just one piece of the puzzle.
The energy behind waste reduction in schools and increasing the connection to natural systems is growing on every level, from parents to principals to the school district, and we at The Watershed Project are thrilled to be part of this change! Sustainable changes to our community are challenging, but they are possible with a whole movement of dedicated individuals and institutions all working together.