In 2017, 30-40% of all food produced in the United States ended up in landfills and contributed to the country’s carbon footprint. At the same time, 13% of US households were food insecure. In Maine, however, that number rises to 15.7% and in the city of Lewiston, ME, it to 25.2%. Enough of the Lewiston population is affected by food insecurity to make the Lewiston School District eligible for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which guarantees free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of socioeconomic background. As the only middle school in the district, Lewiston Middle School (LMS) receives this extra funding for all 800 of its seventh and eighth-grade students. Despite the fact that a quarter of the school population experiences food insecurity, we found that the cafeteria sends over 1,000 pounds of food waste a week to a landfill. In order to find potential recovery options for this food waste, and to reduce the school’s carbon footprint, we conducted informal surveys and a waste audit in the LMS cafeteria. This data was used to determine what percentage of the school’s total waste was food and therefore could be diverted from its path to the landfill. We used the EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy guidelines to help inform our recommendations. Based on our findings, we proposed three different methods for Lewiston Middle School to divert their food waste out of the landfill. These methods included establishing a shared table, giving the waste to a local pig farmer, and contracting with a local commercial composting company. We recommend that LMS combine two or all three of these recovery methods to best address food insecurity for its students, increase sustainability at the school, and reduce food waste.
Cullen, Alex; Simon, Dylan; and Trapp, Anne, "Food Waste at Lewiston Middle School" (2019). Community Engaged Research Reports. 66.