BY SABRINA WONG
Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year— approximately 1.3 billion tons— gets lost or wasted.
A new waste reduction program has made an appearance at Pioneer Middle School recently, helping out with this ongoing issue. The Food Recovery program was introduced in January for students to participate in during breakfast and lunch.
The program was created by Elaine Fiore, a local Montessori educator. The Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is an educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. It is child-centered and values physical, social, emotional and cognitive aspects of the child.
Fiore currently teaches the sustainability class at Beachside Montessori Village School in Hollywood. She started the pilot program of Food Recovery there last year, and also ran a workshop over the summer for teachers who were interested in doing it at their own school.
Tiffany Mosca, an active member of the PTSA at Pioneer, started working with Fiore after science teacher Jerilyn Habenicht attended Fiore’s workshop. Habenicht then approached the PTSA with the idea, and Mosca was asked if she wanted to be involved and spearhead the organization of the program at Pioneer, to which she agreed.
“You can just get up and grab an item without the hassle of asking others for food.”
Mosca— along with Habenicht, Seventh Grade Assistant Principal Suzanne Keneth, Cafeteria Manager Debra Curran and her staff among others— have all contributed to the emergence of Food Recovery at Pioneer.
Certain schools across Broward County require those who buy food at school to include either a fruit or vegetable on their tray before they check out. However, not every student enjoys the food provided, which means that some of the products ultimately end up being thrown out.
To help save food from landing in the trash, the program ensures that unwanted items either go directly back to other students or help starving families in local cities.
Students are given the opportunity to place the foods they won’t be eating on a share table. This table is located in the back of the cafeteria, right outside the lunch line closest to the gym. Before being sent to Nourishing Lives— another non-profit organization— the products on the share table are also accessible to the students themselves.
All students are able to come up to the table during their breakfast or lunch times and take items from it. While they are sometimes limited to one product per category, the table still provides more food to those who have larger appetites.
“The share table is definitely a step in the right direction.”
“The share table is an easier alternative to asking others at your table,” eighth grader Drew Chin said. “You can just get up and grab an item without the hassle of asking others for food.”
The leftover food on the table is collected at the end of each day and put into cardboard boxes that are reused from the milk carton packaging. These boxes are collected every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and are brought to New Horizon Methodist Church. The number of leftover products are logged and recorded onto a sheet every day.
Volunteers at the church pack up the food, which is then donated to families either in or around Cooper City.
“By donating our food, we are taking a step towards the end for world hunger and those that are not able to have food on a daily basis,” eighth grader Luke Freed said. “The share table is definitely a step in the right direction.”
The Food Recovery program also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases produced in landfills, more specifically, carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This gas may be more potent to the environment than regular carbon dioxide (CO2).
“Knowing that, in the end, none of the items put on the table are going to waste is a really good feeling.”
From January 16 through January 31, 1,253 items were rescued, which is equal to about 300 pounds of food.
“It’s wonderful to be part of a program where you see immediate results,” Mosca said. “To see kids take pride in making a decision by placing an item on the table instead of throwing it away, and then later, another kid so happy to be able to have something extra to eat. Knowing that, in the end, none of the items put on the table are going to waste is a really good feeling.”
The newly discovered program has already made a huge impact on students, starving families and the atmosphere at Pioneer despite it being started only weeks ago. As time progresses, this program will likely continue to make a difference in both local communities as well as the world.
“I think the Food Recovery program is absolutely amazing,” eighth grade history teacher Jayme Sheets said. “Day after day, we see so much wasted food being thrown out. I would love to see the program go one step further to show the students how their recycled food is helping somebody else out.”
Photo by Alexa Jaspan