Bates Becomes the 1st K-12 School in NE to Join EPA Food Recovery Challenge

Phyllis Theermann
Bate 5th grade students at sharing table they created as part of the EPA Food Recovery Challenge Standing top row left to right: Annabelle Xu, Tyler Yen, Lucy Kim, Brooke Rosedale, Eshaal Tariq, Lucy Snow Crouched middle row l-r: Sadie Solomon, Casey Zides, Ben Grossi, Isabella Pavano, Molly Plenge Seated front row l-r: Caroline Jolley, Dylan Boyle, Brandon Adler, Ben Palli

Bate 5th grade students at sharing table they created as part of the EPA Food Recovery Challenge
Standing top row left to right: Annabelle Xu, Tyler Yen, Lucy Kim, Brooke Rosedale, Eshaal Tariq, Lucy Snow
Crouched middle row l-r: Sadie Solomon, Casey Zides, Ben Grossi, Isabella Pavano, Molly Plenge
Seated front row l-r: Caroline Jolley, Dylan Boyle, Brandon Adler, Ben Palli

Katharine Lee Bates Elementary School in Wellesley, MA, is receiving national attention by pledging to improve its sustainable food management practices and report its results. The school, one of seven elementary schools that are part of Wellesley Public Schools, recently joined the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge, becoming the first K-12 school in New England to participate in this program.

“The EPA is pleased that Katharine Lee Bates Elementary School in Wellesley is the first New England K-12 school to join our Food Recovery Challenge,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of the U.S. EPA’s New England office. “This is a great way to lead by example, both for our kids and for other schools. They will help show that reducing food waste helps protect our environment along with saving both money and food. It’s good old-fashioned common sense that we should use food to feed people and not landfills,” Spalding said.

Students, parents and school administrators are working to create a plan to prevent and divert wasted food in the school cafeteria by following the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy. The hierarchy recommends actions in the following order by – source reduction, feeding hungry people, feeding animals, and reuse (e.g., composting and/or anaerobic digestion).

“Students are really engaged to help others and reduce food waste generation,” said Toni Jolley, Bates Elementary School principal. “This is an important national issue as since 40% of what is grown in the US is never eaten, wasting an estimated 25% of our potable water and 4% of our power, while 1 in 7 people are food insecure. Through our participation in the FRC program, we hope to encourage behavior changes in our own small community that might spark action on a larger scale,” Jolley said.

Program organizers are collaborating on this pilot project with a number of Wellesley town departments and committees including the Natural Resources Commission, Sustainable Energy Committee, Wellesley Public Schools, Department of Public Works, Health Department, Food Pantry, Council on Aging, 3R(Reduce Reuse Recycle) Working Group and Wellesley Green Schools.

“We hope this program will be the first of many throughout the district that will enable us to reduce our environmental footprint; donate nutritious, leftover food to feed hungry people, not landfills; and save money via reduced purchasing and waste disposal costs,” said Marybeth Martello, a Bates parent who initiated the FRC efforts. The school is currently planning an assessment to determine baseline measurements and first year goals.

For more information on the EPA’s Food Recovery Program, please contact Janet Bowen (bowen.janet@epa.gov) at 617.918.1795. To learn more about the Bates Elementary program, contact Marybeth Martello at marybeth.martello@gmail.com.

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Phyllis Theermann
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