Food is so plentiful for so many in the United States that it’s easy to take for granted, and difficult to get the message across of the importance of reducing waste. As with most lessons worth learning, the earlier the message can be put across the better.
So a program started at Meriden’s Israel Putnam Elementary School this spring is worth recognizing, and it’s certainly nice to hear that it will be expanded to Benjamin Franklin and Hanover elementary schools this school year.
The Putnam program was the result of an expansion itself, modeled on a program started in Wallingford last year. It helps show the value of friendship: the Wallingford program was started by recess aides Jennifer Janus and Lisa Teodosio. A friend of Janus’s, Meriden resident JoAnne Grabinski, took the good news from Wallingford and brought it to Meriden.
The good news? About 7.5 tons of food rescued in Wallingford schools since February of last year. The program teaches young people about how important it is to not waste food. If you can deliver that message to someone at a young age it has a chance of becoming an ingrained habit as life goes on.
Meriden schools received an $8,000 grant from the Napier Foundation for the expansion. The program includes a nine-week effort to convey the importance of healthy eating and not wasting food during lunch period. After that lesson is delivered, bins are set up in the cafeteria for pupils to donate certain items of uneaten food allowed by the state Department of Education. The food is then donated to local nonprofit organizations.
After the program completed at Israel Putnam, the amount of milk thrown out in cafeterias was reduced by a third, according to Susan Maffe, director of food and nutrition services. Wasted vegetables were reduced by 10 percent. Wasted fruits by 5 percent.
That sounds like success, considering the limitations on what can be rescued, and a most valuable lesson.