I am a junior at Richard Montgomery High School in Maryland and the founder of a youth-led non-profit organization called Rise N Shine Foundation. My journey started in 2018 when I along with my friends took part in a national STEM competition where we placed in the top 5. The topic we explored was food waste after realizing how much food students throw away in the trash every day. In my county, the waste is sent to incinerators which contribute to methane emissions and global warming.
Rise N Shine was created to combat the issues of food waste and educate the youth in my community. In 2018, we started the first composting program in up-county Montgomery County in a local elementary school. Since then we’ve expanded the program to seven schools across MCPS with more schools in the process of getting started soon. The composting program has been able to divert around 36,000 pounds of food waste from contributing to our negative environmental footprint. That's equivalent to 1605 gallons of gas avoided, 236 seedlings planted, and miles driven offset of 35860 miles.
Taking inspiration from the composting programs, Senate Bill 124 was created and passed to create a grant program to compost food waste in schools. In support of this bill, I along with others in my community interested in composting created a postcard campaign that received the support of 6,000 community members around Maryland. I also testified for this bill at Capital Hill.
When running the composting program in the schools, I noticed the amount of unopened food the students were composting. While it’s good that it is getting composted, I realized that the food could be used for better purposes such as feeding those in my community that needs the food. We set up a food cart and mini-fridge in the school’s cafeteria for the students to place their up-opened perishable and non-perishable food on. This is especially helpful for food-shy and food-insecure students as they can go to the cart and fridge throughout the school day whenever hungry. If there is leftover food, it is redistributed to members of the community it came from who need the food. So far, the program runs in three schools. However I am currently partnered with the MCPS Division of Sustainability and Compliance and together we are hopeful that we can expand this program to all schools in our county by the end of either this school year or the next.
After seeing the amount of uneaten food going to waste, I realized the same must be true for businesses. They often throw out food before it goes bad. So, my organization partners with various businesses to recover food that they would otherwise throw out and distribute it to shelter homes and food banks instead. Through this, we were able to donate over 50,000 meals, $75,000 worth of meals, and over 1000 SSL volunteer hours.
Recently, Rise N Shine Foundation received the 2022 Climate and Energy Leadership Award from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and was invited to speak at the Rockville Mayor and Council meeting. Rise N Shine strives to educate its community on both environmental related issues and hunger through volunteer based solutions and leadership opportunities.
By engaging in Composting and Food Recovery, Rise N Shine foundation contributes to the fight against climate change and reduces hunger. To learn more about Rise N Shine foundation, Inc please visit our website: https://www.risenshinefoundation.org/