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Wellesley students conserving food

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By Rama K Ramaswamy

Students, staff, and representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency are reducing food waste by participating in the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge.

During the challenge, Bates fifth graders set up a table in the cafeteria with a bin and a laminated poster that shows pictures of acceptable and unacceptable food items. Uneaten food in its original packaging or peels can be put in the bin, but food made at home or that has already been opened is not allowed.

At the end of each lunch period, children can bring up any food they want to donate and put it in the bin. 

“Students are really engaged to help others and reduce food waste generation,” said Bates principal Toni Jolley. “This is an important national issue, since 40 percent of what is grown nationally is never eaten, wasting an estimated 25 percent of our potable water and 4 percent of our power while 1 in 7 people are food insecure.”

“Through our participation in the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) program, we hope to encourage behavior changes in our own, small community that might spark action on a larger scale,” Jolley said.

EPA Regional Administrator for New England, Curt Spalding noted that the EPA is glad to see the commitment the students and staff have made to the program as the first elementary school in New England to sign up.

“[The program] is a great way to lead by example, both for our kids and for other schools,” Spalding said. “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.”

According to Bates parent Gretchen Hall, the idea to participate in the program came from Bates fifth graders Sadie Solomon and Molly Plenge while they were doing a project for the Lego League, along with students Eshaal Tariq, Dylan Boyle, Brandon Adler, Ben Grossi, Ben Palli, Casey Zides and Tyler Yen.

“Our Bates kids have gotten so excited about it that on many days a couple of kids will pick up the bin and walk around the cafeteria asking if anyone has food to donate,” Hall said.

At the end of the third lunch period a pair of students carry the bin to the faculty lounge where they sort perishables into the fridge and non-perishables into another bin that teachers can raid for extra classroom snacks. Hall volunteers for weekly pick-up duty, and brings the donations to the Wellesley Food Pantry.

Stephanie Hawkinson, the Coordinator of Environmental Education and Outreach, praised the students, staff and parents who came together to enter the challenge.

“Their hands-on approach shows their strong commitment to protecting our environment and we’re eager to learn from the results of their work,” Hawkinson said.

For more information on the EPA’s Food Recovery Program, contact Janet Bowen at 617-918-1795.

To learn more about the Bates Elementary program, contact Marybeth Martello at

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