Fighting Untouched Food Waste in Schools

Schools that are part of the National School Lunch program are walking a fine line between following guidelines that require students to take required food items and wasting food if the students are taking items that they are not intending to actually consume.

We Future Cycle’s mission in the lunchrooms is to teach students to sort their lunch waste into compost, recycling and trash. This simple change of behavior reduces garbage by over 90% and as by-product, it sheds light on just how much the students are being served that they do not consume.

Let’s step back to understand this problem better.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

Clear nutritional guidelines were established in 2012 under Michelle Obama’s guidance to make sure that commercial food service providers would not use the cheapest of all ingredients to feed the nations youngest for a quick buck.

Here is the link to the actual guidelines

These guidelines come with certain amounts of grain, protein, fruit, veggies and milk.

As students are sorting their lunch leftovers, we are also capturing the untouched, commercially wrapped food items to repurpose them, rather then just dumping them. COVID did not make this problem any easier.

This is the untouched food waste of ONE breakfast in ONE school. It is shocking and WeFutureCycle is working with the schools to find avenues to repurpose and donate these items back into the community as well as changing the menu to foster food acceptance.


Hamilton Elementary School relaunches waste separation!

Students in grades K through 8 at Mt Vernon’s Hamilton Elementary School are learning that they have an important role to play in saving our Earth, with the help of custodian Craig and his team, plus lunch monitors and kitchen staff. 

Before now, the trash bin was the only one in use in the lunchroom. Orange peels, plastic sporks, and napkins joined chip bags and straws in the trash, and about 100 lbs a day was carted to the Peekskill incinerator where it would be burned, creating endless smoke and pollution. Of this 100lbs,

Now, children choose where to put their waste and leftovers. Through the simple act of sorting, students on launch day were able to keep 93.5% of their waste and leftovers from going to the incinerator (about 42.5 lbs were compostables, 12 lbs recyclables, and 29 lbs liquids). Instead, plastic containers are recycled. Dirty napkins are composted. Liquids are sent to the wastewater treatment facility to be cleaned until they can be part of the water cycle again.

The students know that because of their individual actions, our Earth will be a little bit cleaner, and that together, we can make a huge difference.