The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a $50,000 grant to Rutgers University on Wednesday to assist the Paterson school district to reduce food waste.
Schools in the city waste 310 tons of food every year, according to a study.
“A baseline study of the Paterson Public Schools showed that, on average, 84 pounds of food was wasted every day at each school in the district – that’s 310 tons of food waste every year,” said Sara Elnakib, family and community health sciences educator of Rutgers University’s Cooperative Extension of Passaic County.
The university will work with students, teachers, cafeteria workers, and parents to increase awareness of food waste as an environmental issue and train them on ways to reduce it. A Sustainable Schools Summit for select classes and teachers will feature workshops and hands-on activities to reduce waste.
“This award is great gift for young Patersonians to learn the importance of avoiding food waste. It will help cafeterias and classrooms in Paterson provide new, hands-on opportunities for students to connect their daily habits with practices that are good for themselves, their families, and the environment,” Rep. Bill Pascrell said
Students and teachers trained through the program will be responsible for planting and maintaining school gardens. They’ll have to setup compost bins as part of their education in food waste reduction.
“The EPA’s funding will be instrumental to our Grow Healthy school initiative in raising awareness about the food waste problem, encouraging healthy consumption, and introducing food waste reduction strategies that can holistically be applied on the personal, institutional, and community level and will benefit the environment,” Elnakib said.
Separate workshops will be hosted for cafeteria staff to teach them waste reduction practices in the lunchroom. Each participant’s progress will be measured through pre and post-training surveys and food waste studies.
“Locally-focused environmental education projects like this increase public awareness and knowledge about environmental and conservation issues and provide the skills needed to make informed decisions and take responsible actions toward the environment,” Pete Lopez, regional EPA administrator, said.
The funds are coming from the EPA’s Environmental Education Grant Program. Since 1992, the program has distributed $2-3.5 million in grants per year. A total of $75 million have been awarded to more than 3,700 projects.
Updated 5:10 p.m. [J]