by Karina Konezny and Sunny Galbraith
20 June 2023
Under state law SB 1383: Short Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction, schools (as well businesses, government entities, and private homes) are required to compost food scraps and yard clippings, rather than throw them in the garbage. The purpose of this law is to reduce the amount of methane released from landfills. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that traps 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide and is created when organics (food, plant, and paper waste) decompose in anaerobic environments (such as landfills).
Orchard View and Apple Blossom are ahead of the curve, as we have been composting food scraps for over 15 years! Orchard View teacher Sunny Galbraith and Apple Blossom garden teacher Stefan Stehling organize and train student volunteers to help with the process. Check out this slideshow made by Orchard View compost volunteer Jibreel Soliman-Dick to see how the process works: OV and AB Students Help Schools Meet New Composting Law. Each week, over 200 pounds of food scraps are delivered to a local pig farmer instead of being thrown in the garbage, greatly reducing greenhouse gas production.
To meet additional requirements of the law, Orchard View started diverting paper towels to the compost three years ago, and this school year, Apple Blossom and Orchard View began donating edible food to food recovery organizations.
In the school year 2022-2023, California became the first U.S. state to implement the Universal Meals Program, providing free, nutritionally adequate breakfast and lunch for all K-12th grade students. This program was met with enthusiasm from Orchard View and Apple Blossom students and families, but with its implementation arose the unfortunate byproduct of a lot more food waste.
Orchard View graduate Karina Konezny took on this issue as a passion project in the fall of 2022, on the suggestion of her supervising teacher, Sunny Galbraith. In an effort to efficiently reduce food waste, hunger, and the schools’ greenhouse gas footprints, Karina set out to establish a system to divert unserved meals from being thrown away or fed to hogs, and instead donate them to a food security focused nonprofit to be distributed.
Karina interviewed our county waste management agency’s zero waste expert, Xinci Tan, to learn about current regulations. Tan connected her with ExtraFood, a food recovery organization based in Marin County. They arranged a pickup and delivery system, in collaboration with Conservation Corps North Bay, to the Buckelew Center in Santa Rosa. As of early December 2022, there is now a scheduled pickup from the Apple Blossom cafeteria every Tuesday morning. In just the first month, five trips were made, and 163 meals — totalling 195 pounds of food — were rescued.
This delivery structure has the potential to be implemented in other institutions, particularly as other California schools are grappling with similar increases in food waste. Karina expanded her project to include Sebastopol Union School District elementary schools Brook Haven and Park Side on the delivery route.