StopWaste at School


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Fran's Cafe

Composting station in the kitchen galley.Composting station in the kitchen galley.After a waste audit revealed that 75% of material in the school cafeteria's garbage cans could be composted, students, teachers and staff from Castlemont High School began a campaign to reduce waste in Fran's Cafe- the school cafeteria named for the energetic and charismatic kitchen manager Fran Terrell.

Working as a team, Castlemont with support from the Oakland Unified School District, implemented many changes to start reducing waste. Recycling and composting bins were placed in the kitchen galley so that staff can easily recycle steel cans and compost food scraps.

Diversion stations with clearly marked signs are now set up in the cafeteria area for students to sort waste into recyclables, compostables, and trash. 

Single serve utensil dispensersSingle serve utensil dispensersLead teacher Tim Bremner explains, "We didn't make a big deal out of it- we simply put in the new stations and found some students that can periodically monitor them to make sure people are sorting correctly. So far, it's making a big difference- but we are worried about the challenge of on-going bin monitoring."

Another important change at Castlemont aims to address the wasteful practice of providing a "spork packet" with every meal.  The district installed fork, spoon, and napkin dispensers on the walls allowing students to take only what they need.  

"In the past, students got a spork packet whether they needed it or not.  Now if we have pizza- they only need to take a napkin," explains kitchen manager Fran Terrell.

Salad bars can help reduce waste by allowing students to choose healthy foods they know they will eatSalad bars can help reduce waste by allowing students to choose healthy foods they know they will eat

The waste reduction campaign overlaps with broader changes in food service in Oakland Unified School District. Kitchens are once again cooking food (rather than just warming packaged items), salad bars offer fresh fruits and vegetables, and the district supports weekly community farmers markets at a number of schools.

The district has also followed the City of Oakland's lead and has eliminated the purchase of disposable foam trays in favor of compostable cardboard ones.

Fran Terrell is clearly proud of the healthy food she is serving and proud to be a leader in waste reduction as well.  "My next goal is to get rid of the plastic water bottles.  I hear that another school has a water dispenser and paper cups- I want to learn more about that and bring it here."