The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Operation food scraps

Operation food scraps is underway...and we need your help!  Before I tell you all of the exciting details of our visit to the principal's office, I hope you'll each put on your thinking caps and help me come up with a name for this project.  If all goes well this semester, we've already got a couple of folks who'd like to expand the project to collect food scraps from schools in nearby counties, and we desperately need a catchy project title.  Please comment with your ideas!

Anyway, to get back to the exciting part....  We had an appointment with the principal of our nearest school Monday to talk the project over, and we were trying hard not to get our hopes up although she had sounded guardedly enthusiastic on the phone.  Even if the principal gave our project the go-ahead, we didn't know what kind of volume of food waste to expect, so we figured we'd wait until after the meeting to buy the food scrap bins.  This was to be a reconnaissance mission --- get approval and figure out exactly what kind of bins to buy.

It turns out that our local school is one of the tiniest schools you're likely to come across, with only 80 students, along with 20 headstart students.  This may sound bad from the point of view of food scrap volume, but the small size of the school is actually a boon --- the principal is able to try out projects like ours without too much paperwork or hassle.  Mark and I sat down with the principal, lunchroom lady, and janitor, who together take care of the entire lunch operation.  I'd been a bit afraid that the lunchroom staff would roll their eyes and turn up their noses at our idea even if the principal was in favor, but I was pleasantly surprised --- all three of the staff turned out to be enthusiastic, down-to-earth, and just plain good folks who I'm pleased to have had the opportunity of meeting.

After explaining that we wanted the food and napkins, but not the milk cartons or straws, I asked "How much food waste do you think you produce per day?"  Unlike bigger schools, the lunchroom lady cooks all of the food for the students herself, and she clearly kept a close eye on the waste stream.  "On pizza day, we hardly have any waste," she said with a smile, "but today we served chicken noodle soup with carrots and crackers on the side, and kids just don't like carrots...."  The janitor jumped in with his estimate that the school puts out one to two large trash cans of food waste every day.

The sheer volume of waste produced by such a tiny school blew me away.  Granted, the school serves breakfast as well as lunch, so that's only about a third of a gallon of food waste per kid per meal.  Okay, that still sounds huge.  Clearly this project was bigger than I'd thought, and it's a very good thing we started with a very small school.

With the volume information in hand and the support of all three cafeteria personnel, we've now decided to buy a rolling trash can for each day of the week.  The principal and janitor decided that it would be no problem to store a sealed trashcan of food waste in the Dungeon for a few days until we can pick it up.  Yup, I did say "Dungeon" --- maybe I wouldn't have wanted to go to that school after all?

Our homemade chicken waterer keeps our chickens happy and healthy.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Food--cycle-- Re-cycle

(above in a circle)

Student waste-less food

in a USDA food pyramid form

Comment by Errol Tue Jan 18 08:26:59 2011

While I was out walking Lucy, I was thinking of the very simplest version "Food Cycle."

I like a short "Waste Less" too...

Comment by anna Tue Jan 18 09:18:18 2011
I am interested to see the heap of leftovers you collected and how you came to get them.
Comment by Maggie Tue Jan 18 11:20:29 2011

Here's a slogan for lunch room posters:


Comment by Errol Tue Jan 18 11:56:54 2011
Super. I think the best part of this project is showing kids something that actually provides positive results. They hear so much about recycling and being green but don't get to see hands-on activity and results. My suggestion would be for a snappy title to capture kids' Operation Dumpster Diet or Earth Circle. I'm sure you and your clever readers will come up with something catchy!
Comment by Kelly Tue Jan 18 13:46:42 2011

Maggie --- we'll definitely be taking photos once we get to the hands on stage of the project. We picked up the bins today and will deliver them to the school Friday, so no food scraps photos until around Tuesday.

Daddy --- great slogan!

Kelly --- Very good points! Dumpster Diet is certainly catchy. I wonder if adults would like it as much as kids?

Comment by anna Tue Jan 18 16:49:53 2011

As the Worm Turns.

hee hee

Comment by Heather Tue Jan 18 19:47:22 2011
...about permaculture!
Comment by anna Wed Jan 19 17:36:49 2011
I meant vermiculture. You can see where my mind is. :-)
Comment by anna Wed Jan 19 18:24:40 2011

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