Missoula County Public Schools is partnering with community organizations on a zero-waste cafeteria initiative.
The program expanded into Lewis and Clark Elementary school on Thursday.
“Back in 2019, at Jeannette Rankin Elementary, before we launched their program we sorted through their trash for a couple of days,” Strategy Zero Waste Solutions principal Jeremy Drake said. “What we found in the cafeteria trash was that 20% of everything that was being thrown away was unopened edible food that could be sanitized and served again. More than half was compostable.”
In 2019, Drake and Strategy Zero Waste Solutions began working with MCPS to offset their waste.
“We are working with Russell, Chief Charlo, Lewis and Clark and Paxson. And each school has its own planning process to develop a zero-waste plan for each school, and all of them have a cafeteria component,” Drake said.
When kindergarten through fifth grade students are done with their lunches, they sort them into four different bins with some help though from volunteers and older classmates.
“Older kids who get it, having an opportunity to teach the younger kids who still need a little support, then there is a really beautiful opportunity for peer mentoring going on there,” Drake said about the student helpers. “Community members that are interested in helping the schools move towards zero waste can volunteer as zero-waste cafeteria coaches. The school has a portal on the MCPS website where they can sign up.”
Zero Waste Solutions and Home ReSource created some curriculum to show students how to organize and sort their trash.
Lewis and Clark’s principal said it added a nice touch to the program.
“It was just a ready lesson where it was a sorting exercise similar to what they are doing in the lunchroom starting today,” Lewis and Clark Elementary Principal Alanna Vaneps said. “So it’s K-5, we've had many classes doing it if not all of them, so kids are really engaged, and they are already thinking about walking down the hall and what can be recycled and what can be composted.”
“That keeps all of the stuff out of the landfill here in Missoula. It reduces our waste and reduces our impact on the environment locally,” Drake said.
If you would like to volunteer and help the program you can click on the link here for more information.