Calif. district seeks to put food waste to use

A typical Manteca Unified School District student generates roughly 1.75 ounces of food waste a day when they are done with lunch.
Multiply that by 24,000 students, and it comes to 1.06 tons on any given school day.

While that sounds like a staggering amount it translates into just 70 pounds per campus per school day.

“One and three quarter ounces per student struck me as an awful lot of waste,” noted Patti Page who serves as the Manteca Unified director of nutritional services.

But after further investigating it didn’t seem that bad.

Page soon found out an apple core tossed into the orange carts set aside for food waste came to three quarters of an ounce. A typical banana peel weighs an ounce.

“That figure (1.75 ounces) includes all students, even those who bring their own lunch,” Page said.

Interest in food waste has picked up since the City of Manteca started rolling out its food waste collection program as the first step toward converting what food Manteca residents toss out into biogas to fuel municipal refuse collection trucks.

Manteca Unified has embraced the city effort whole heartedly to the point they want all of the district’s schools — including those in Lathrop, French Camp, Weston Ranch, and French Camp as well as Nile Garden and New Haven — to participate. The city is working with Allied Waste Management, the private contractor that serves those areas, to either collect the orange food waste carts or have Manteca trucks do it.

“We want all of our students to participate regardless of where they are at,” Page said.

Currently all elementary school campuses within the city limits of Manteca are participating. Page said her staff is still trying to determine how to roll the food waste collection program out at Manteca, East Union and Sierra high schools. It is more problematic as each campus has multiple places serving food.

The city started implementing its food waste programs at Manteca schools back in August given their volume plus the track record they have of embracing recycling. Manteca, as well as other municipalities, is working to meet a state mandate to divert food waste from being buried at landfills.

Student volunteers in school lunch rooms help monitor carts to make sure garbage and food waste are separated by fellow students as they clear their plates or dump leftovers from home lunches. The carts used are filled only a third of the way due to the dense weight of food waste. That allows easier and safer handling by the school custodial staff. Read more…

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