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Food Waste Reduction in School Meals


Schools have a special role in providing nutritious, well-balanced meals for students and to educate the next generation about environmental stewardship through reduction and recycling of waste.

Overview of Food Waste Reduction Strategies - Ideas to increase consumption and decrease food waste in schools developed by Iowa Department of Education and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

School Food Waste Assessment - There are many different factors that affect waste in school meals. Complete an assessment to develop a food waste reduction action plan.

Food Donation and Sharing Table SOP - Standard Operating Procedure Development by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Food Waste Reduction in Schools Presentation - Presentation at Managers Update in partnership with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 

Des Moines Public Schools - Article about their "No Thank You Box" program. 

Iowa Schools Food Waste Minimization Toolkit - Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Iowa Department of Education (DOE) partnered on a pilot project in eleven schools that included onsite waste sorts and assessments. Lessons learned throughout the pilot are included in this resource to assist schools in food waste reduction efforts.
Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE) Representatives - The IWE is designed to keep waste out of the landfills. Representatives are available to help provide assistance to industry, businesses, local government and schools in reducing waste. The map provides contact information for each region of Iowa.

USDA Food Waste Challenge - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg announced the United States’ first-ever national food loss and waste goal, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. USDA and EPA will work in partnership with charitable organizations, faith organizations, the private sector, and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation’s natural resources.

  • What You Can Do To Help Prevent Wasted Food - (USDA Resource) Discusses ways to reduce, recover, and recycle food before it goes to waste, including tips for school nutrition professionals, teachers, parents, students, and school administrators.
  • Plate Waste USDA Research Brief - How food service directors minimized plate waste in school meal programs while implementing provisions resulting from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA).
  • Guide to Conducting Student Food Waste Audits - (USDA and EPA Resource) Student food waste audits are a quick way to learn which kinds of foods go uneaten by students in a school cafeteria. The data gained from an audit can help schools develop specific strategies to reduce wasted food.  

School Food Waste Survey - Iowa Department of Education in partnership with Iowa Department of Natural Resources sent a survey to all food service directors in the state (Spring 2016). Summary of survey results are below:

  • Techniques they use that they feel has reduced food waste:
    • Implemented offer vs. serve (71%)
    • Self-serve fruit and vegetable bar (47%)
    • Increased the number of food choices offered (47%)
  • Strategies they are interested in implementing
    • Working to ensure students have enough time to eat (45%)
    • Completing a food waste assessment (43%)
    • Letting students self-serve (42%)
  • Their concerns when attempting to decrease waste
    • Food safety concerns (59%)
    • Time to plan and coordinate (56%)
    • Cost (47%)
  • Resources needed
    • Guidelines to assist with planning and implementing (70%)
    • Funding assistance (53%)

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on April 25, 2018 at 9:18pm.