Food Scraps Program Coming to Region 4 Schools
With both Essex and Deep River participating in food scrap programs, members of the region’s sustainability committees are now raising funds in an effort to bring a similar program to all five Region 4 public schools.
The Tri-Town Sustainable Committees Food Scrap Composting and Education Campaign is looking for donations to meet a goal to provide all of the Region 4 schools with enough funding to cover the cost of food scrap hauling for the next two school years, according to its Patronicity page. The goal is to raise $30,000 in donations to cover food scrap hauling.
Essex Elementary School (ESS) and Deep River Elementary School (DRES) already have food scrap programs, as do their respective towns. Sustainability representatives want to see the collection expand to Chester Elementary School, John Winthrop Middle School, and Valley Regional High School.
Sustainable Essex Committee member Kalyn Yeager said the overarching goal of a district-wide effort is to instill environmentally-conscious and sustainable waste disposal habits early on for tri-town elementary school students so that it becomes second nature by the time they reach high school. She said current efforts at EES are going well.
“They are doing fabulously. We’re really proud of the kids. Now we’ve kind of instilled in them the importance of diverting food scraps,” said Yeager. “When the sixth graders graduate and go on to middle school, we want that continued support…this is an important life skill, and we don’t want them to get there and not have that opportunity or wonder ‘Why was it important at one school and not at another?’”
DRES’ program is a small operation, with one trash bin designated for unconsumed food by its students in grades four through six. But the program’s results have been beneficial, according to Principal Josh Torchia, who described their program as “a small step in improving overall waste production in the school.”
“We’re saving about eight pounds a day of food waste. We anticipate that with more grades jumping in,” said Torchia.
Torchia spoke about “the ease” of the program that the Deep River Sustainability CT Committee brought them during last year’s holiday season.
“There wasn’t anything more than just ‘food waste is going here, paper waste is going here.’ It’s a very simple model that we have to follow. For us, as a community-based small school, it was nice of us to be part of it because I think it helps the overall message.”
Torchia said DRES students have been dedicated and adaptable to the program to the point of taking these new habits home with them to their parents. He said a long-term goal would be for the students to take on leadership in the current food scraps effort and in others in the future.
“We don’t recycle right now, but that’s something that kids have started to show interest in,” Torchia said. “That’s another step we may take in the next couple years; we can look at other ways we can reduce our waste in the building, and it can be led by the students, which is what I would like for it to be done.”
Alongside direct donations on the campaign’s Patronicity page, the committees also encourage donations to be made in the spirit of environmentalism and sustainability in the bottle donations for their redemptions.
Yeager said for the campaign’s success to be fully recognized by the committees’ umbrella organization Sustainable CT, there to be “community engagement” through many patrons and their donations, as opposed to working with large donors, which she says is preferable.
“With this bottle redemption, we can really click in a lot more patrons even though it’s a small monetary amount, but it’s just about the involvement in the awareness.”
According to Yeager, adjacent to the fundraising effort is a postcard educational campaign in which the tri-town committees will look to engage in further local education on composting methods like food scraps. Similarly, as hoped for at DRES, Yeager added that it would be the best outcome for communication and education on such matters to be led by environmentally-conscious students at Valley Regional High School.
“That’s not a sustainable model for us to be leading all these efforts every year. We just want it to become part of their habits and then teach the next generation, and hopefully, it just becomes a habit at home,” said Yeager.
Food scrap disposal continues at the Deep River Transfer station, where Nancy McGee of the town’s committee recognized the “wonderful guys at the Transfer Station who have been so supportive and helpful” of Deep River’s food scraps program.
Compounded with the active food scraps programs and past environmentalist efforts and campaigns by tri-town committees, the fundraiser is another component in fostering a more environmentally-friendly mindset in the region, said Deep River committee member Lenore Grunko.
“It’s a pretty basic expectation to just think about returning your food scraps to the earth rather than have it go through the waste stream where it produces more carbon than is necessary or reasonable,” she said.
To donate to the Tri-Town Sustainable Committees Food Scrap Composting and Education Campaign, visit www.patronicity.com/project/region_4_schools_food_scrap_composting_and_education_campaign. Donations will be accepted by June 18.