the blog post on how Emerson Elementary was able to start a K-12 Food Rescue Program
in Salt Lake City Utah.
By Monica Carlson
May 22, 2017
Over dinner several months ago, my 10-year-old daughter shared something that caught her attention during lunch in her school cafeteria. “Mom,” she said, “we throw so much food away during lunch at school! It’s ridiculous.” As I asked her more about what she observed, we briefly discussed what a shame it was that perfectly good food would go to waste - not only at her school, but across the country and even in our own home. Fast forward to a month later in early 2017, when I began researching food waste initiatives across the country and came across John Williamson’s organization, Food Rescue. As I began to learn more about food recovery efforts across the country, I realized the enormous impact schools can have on diverting unused, healthy food out of landfills and into their own communities. Our elementary school had already implemented a share table during lunch, which enabled students to place unused and uneaten food in a common area where others could grab as they pleased. Our goal was to take this a step further and divert those items left over at the end of each day. I reached out to our School Community Council and our school’s principal, and within two months we had received the support and resources we needed to get our school’s Food Rescue program off and running. John’s guidance, and the wealth of resources he provides both on his site and via email, were instrumental in assisting me with how to move the program from its initial planning stages to full implementation. With the help of a small parent committee, as well as dozens of parents willing to volunteer during lunch time for our initial food waste audit and the first two weeks of implementation, our program has taken off and is becoming a part of the school’s culture. I anticipate that in the coming school year, our “Operation Food Rescue” program will become more integrated and provide students with great leadership and community service opportunities.
In Salt Lake City, we face a homelessness crisis that cannot be ignored. By partnering with a local nonprofit we have begun donating healthy food items like cheese sticks, individually packaged sandwiches, fruits, apple juice, and of course, milk, to people who are most in need. The feedback we’ve received from this nonprofit has been very positive and we look forward to continuing to provide these nutritious snacks. In the past month alone, we have donated over 1170 items, translating into 234 meals served and 146 pounds of CO2e reduced. Of course, we couldn’t have done this without the support of our school’s principal, support from parents and teachers, and our very own students engaging in this daily act of kindness.We’re grateful to have found Food Rescue program models across the country to inspire us and help us along, as well as John’s vision to strengthen our communities and environment through service stewardship. Viva Food Rescue!