Composting our Food Waste
St. Albans City School has been committed to composting our food waste for the past eight years. Uneaten food is collected in buckets or totes in the cafeteria, the kitchen and classrooms each day. Then, several times a week a delivery service collects that food waste and transports it three miles down the road to the Hudak farm composting area. Hudak's adds carbon matter to the food and creates massive compost piles that are turned with a large front end loader on a regular basis. The finished compost is sold to local gardeners and farmers.
Our food waste amounts to 150-200 lbs/day and we are working to reduce that amount.
SHARE FRIDGE: One way we have successfully reduced food waste (and hunger) is to have a share fridge in the cafeteria and another one in the larger wing of our school. Students who don't want an item of food can leave it in the share fridge for others to consume. The fridges are very popular and most of the food added to them is taken by students.
Totes of food waste are delivered to Hudak Farm
Composting On-Site at St. Albans City School
Although we don't have the capacity to compost all of the school's food waste, we are able to compost our fruit and vegetable snack food waste. One learning community, team Renaissance, collects this waste from around the school each day and takes it out to our new compost shed. They add dry carbon matter stored there to the wet food waste. The compost is stored in two kinds of containers (see pictures below) until finished. The resulting product is added to the garden spaces at school
Now we are working to reduce our solid waste
We generate lots trash associated with food consumption -especially since we serve so many meals: free breakfasts, snacks and lunch. We are planning to try and serve bulk milk and eliminate some of our carton waste.
Note (2019): It turns out that distributing bulk milk is not easy to achieve. For 3/4ths of our students, breakfasts are served in the classroom. Supplying washable cups and ones that don't spill to classrooms seems daunting to our cafeteria and teachers. Where will bulk milk be stored and distributed? How will it be carried to classrooms? Who will collect and wash the cups? The kitchen feels overwhelmed with dishes from the meals it currently serves in the cafeteria. Needless to say, we are still pondering the obstacles to our goal.
By watching this video you can learn a ton about what can and cannot be composted. The video was made during a Farm to School workshop at Shelburne Farms attended by our farm-to-school team in 2013. Alisha Sawyer, one of stewardship staff leaders, did much the same thing with students in 2017.
Composting Education for the St. Albans Community
The Renaissance learning community is taking on the task of educating the wider St. Albans City School Community about composting. As of 2020, it will be illegal to add food waste to our trash in Vermont. Instead, food waste must be composted. To make that process understandable they have sent composting education flyers to all school families for the 2019-2020 school year. They also plan to hold some evening presentations on the topic for interested families.