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School Food Waste

Prepared by Michaela Harvey, MPH (Dietic Intern from UNC)

Here at D6 Nutrition Services, the goal is to feed all of our students breakfast and lunch every school day. While doing this, we want our kids to learn about how they can reduce the number of foods they throw away and create “food waste.”

What is food waste? Food waste is food that is safe and of good quality, but is thrown away at stores, restaurants, and even schools! This happens because either too much food was made, there were issues with storage or cooking, or the people eating the food have leftovers (Filho, et. al, 2021).

The goal of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. Teaching our kids about ways they can prevent food waste will help provide them with a mindful future.

How District 6 is helping to prevent food waste.

Salad Bars

Salad bars let students choose which fruits and vegetables they want to eat. Letting students choose what they want to eat will increase their fruit and vegetable consumption. Share with your kids that some of the produce has come from local Colorado farms and is fresh and delicious! Children can also visit the salad bar multiple times. If your child finishes lunch and is still hungry, encourage them to get a second round of fruits or vegetables!

“Offer” vs. “Serve” (OVS)

By “offering” foods to kids we are letting kids decide which foods they want to take. While students need to take 3 foods from different food groups during breakfast (one of them being fruit) and 3 foods from different food groups during lunch (one of them being a fruit or vegetable) they can choose the items they are most likely to eat all of.

Share Tables

Most of our schools have a table or box for students to place any unwanted whole food or beverage items they choose not to consume. These foods cannot be opened or eaten out of, they are just foods kids do not want to eat or save for later. Students who are still hungry or want more servings of food can take any food left in these designated spaces.

The Pantry

We are working hard at creating a food pantry in each school that students and their families can access. 20+ locations are now open, with more on the way. This initiative will help us to give away our excess or perishable items to people who need them the most. Additionally, we'll be able to package our extra meals for safe consumption at home. This way, we can reduce food waste and help those who may not have access to food outside of school. Learn more about The Pantry here.

Slicing Fruit

Encourage your kids to try foods prepared in different ways! Here in District 6, we see that large fruits and fruits with peels go uneaten because it is hard for kids to eat or peel these foods. Slicing large fruits or those with peels makes it easier and more enjoyable for kids to eat!

Recess Before Lunch

Research has shown that having recess before lunch reduced food waste at school lunches by 40%! Recess before lunch keeps students focused on their food instead of rushing out to get to recess. Also, after moving, kids may be more likely to choose to eat fruits and vegetables! This is something we regularly advocate for as we understand the benefits it provides to our students.

Share these ideas with your kids so they know what to do to help reduce waste in our schools! You can also print out the infographic below and keep it on your refrigerator to encourage your kids to waste less food during lunch and eat more fruits and vegetables!


Walter Leal Filho, Amanda Lange Salvia, Brittany Davis, Markus Will & Sara Moggi (2021) Higher education and food waste: assessing current trends, International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 28:5, 440-450, DOI: 10.1080/13504509.2020.1865474


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