Every spring and fall my husband teaches Outdoor Education to local 5th and 6th graders. A part of the educational process includes teaching about food waste and composting. On an average day 100 students fill about 1 trash drum full of food waste. During the week of the food waste challenge,they end up with 20lbs for the entire week of food (including breakfast, lunch and dinner), and then it gets composted and used in the garden. Happy Dance!
We begin the food waste challenge by talking to the students about what happens when you waste food. When you waste, it goes into landfills. In the landfill it gets closed into a plastic bag and produces methane gas. Methane gas when released absorbs the suns heat, warming the atmosphere.
We also share about stewardship and the resources God has given us. Our hope is to increase their awareness of the people around them, noticing that when we consider our waste we may have more to share with others in need.
Kids can learn to be less wasteful and better stewards of the land.
Here are some easy steps to to teach kids about the importance of conserving food:
Food Waste Challenge Tips For Kids
1. Appeal to the “why” of less food waste. Brief your students in the environmental impact of wasting food. Be sure to include the importance of not using more than we need. Place pictures of children in poverty areas in your food waste station and talk about what you can do to help. Think about making a donation based on how much your class can conserve. Talk about the importance of caring for others as we care for the land.
2. Set up a “food waste challenge” station. This can be set up in your classroom or cafeteria. Chart how much was wasted at lunch time before the challenge started. Challenge students to only take what they will eat. Students will weigh in their food scraps and tally up the ounces every day for a week. Think about making a goal chart and having rewards for each goal point that relate to helping others who may have less.
3. Place scraps in a bucket with a lid every day (may need to store outside of classroom door). If possible add these scraps to a composting station on campus. If that’s not possible, ask around for a local gardener or community garden that could use the scraps in their compost.
4. Build a simple compost bin like these! Involve your students in the daily composting routine. Start with a pile of carbon materials (anything brown 🙂 paper, cardboard, leaves, grass etc), then add your food scraps daily and cover with more carbon materials. For more in depth composting check out this Composting 101 article.
An important part of caring for our earth includes decreasing food waste. Helping young people see the importance of resourcefulness with food can be easy and fun. An added bonus is the joy of sharing our resources when we only use what we need.
For continued age-appropriate Earth Day activities check out: