Each year approximately 40 percent of food produced in America—nearly $165 billion worth—is thrown away. As school nutrition professionals you’re already familiar with the issues and costs associated with food waste, and SNF’s latest partnership with the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) offers a way for you to be part of the solution. Register now to be part of the School Cafeteria Discards Assessment Project (SCrAP) to help us:
- Gather data to gain an understanding of how waste is managed at your school, and after it is hauled away;
- Educate students and staff about sustainable waste management strategies;
- Reduce unnecessary food waste—and costs—for schools while developing better ways to manage institutional food waste.
We recently sat down with EREF communications manager Catherine Ardoin to learn more about EREF, and how SCrAP can benefit school nutrition programs and school districts.
“EREF is a non-lobbying independent organization, and our mission is to fund and direct scientific research and educational initiatives to benefit the solid waste industry,” explained Ardoin. “Our purpose is to support and conduct scientific research that other organizations, as well as academics—professors, and even students—and government personnel, can use to better the waste industry.”
“[SCrAP] is part of a bigger study EREF is doing called the Sector Flow Project, which measures how much waste key sectors generate,” said Ardoin. “So institutional—like schools and hospitals—versus commercial, such as retail, like grocery stores, and residential waste. We hope by identifying which organizations contribute the most to the waste stream we will be able to inform policy and decision makers, and help them make sustainable decisions regarding waste management.”
Schools of any size can sign up for the SCrAP project, says Ardoin. “The more data, the better!”
SCrAP helps schools quantify the waste they generate; not just food waste, but garbage. You get a better understanding of what food waste is unopened and untouched versus food waste versus packaging waste. This understanding helps schools create more sustainable practices around recycling, composting, and waste disposal.
“We’ve found that schools have a desire to be more sustainable,” said Ardoin. “When we reach out to schools they tell us, “‘It’s an opportunity to teach students while improving campus.’ Since waste is an issue we deal with on a daily basis, we thought schools would be a great place to be.”
You can sign up for one of three levels of participation in the SCrAP project: Purple requires just a simple survey, while Blue and Gold also ask for waste measurements (3-5 and 6-10, respectively); Blue and Gold levels of participation also carry the chance of winning up to $1500 for your school—a nice added bonus. After you complete the program you will be sent educational materials for the classroom to keep your students learning about waste management strategies.
Ardoin shared just a few of the potential benefits of SCrAP participation:
- Potential cost savings: Assessing your waste can help you change how you order food and/or process waste (ex. composting) that will result in cost savings for your SN program.
- Learning laboratory: Teach kids about sustainability and what actions they can take to reduce food and packaging waste.
- Resource materials and grant money: After you participate, you’ll receive follow-up resources for the classroom and the chance to win up to $1500 for your school.