University of Houston and Ramona High School among winners of EPA Food Recovery Challenge

2017 Winners Food Recovery Challenge. Congratulations to the 16 winners in EPA's Food Recovery Challenge. Together, all participants together diverted 740,000 tons of food from being landfilled or incinerated, reducing landfill waste and saving businesses up to $37 million in avoided waste disposal fees. "Food Recovery Challenge award winners serve as role models in their communities and for other organizations," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "Their hard work and effective efforts to divert wasted food from landfills is paying off through social, financial, and environmental benefits." Wasted food is the single largest type of waste discarded each year in our everyday trash, roughly 73 billion pounds.

University of Houston; Houston, Texas

this is a picture of University of Houston students

The University of Houston primarily utilizes two food recovery programs on campus: Food Recovery Network and Campus Kitchens. Both organizations recover food from residential halls and retail locations on campus. In 2016, the university donated a total of 39,763 pounds and composted 71 pounds for use on the campus community garden. Recovered food is donated to the campus' surrounding neighbors, an area which is a food desert and where fresh, healthy food is in great need. Dining halls, retail locations, and the campus community garden donate to food pantries or kitchens that will serve food for immediate use.
The garden and residential halls will be partnering together to expand the composting system both in the garden and residential halls over the next year. The university will train all residential dining employees on what can be composted. The university continues to implement and improve several strategies in order to combat wasted food such as made-to-order meals, trayless dining, portion control and recipe design. 

Ramona High School; Ramona, California

This is a picture of students turning a compost pile

Ramona High School's Eco-Leaders are a small group of students who participate in a Functional Skills program and are committed to making change in the world. In collaboration with the County of San Diego and the Ramona Unified School District, the Eco-Leaders run a district-wide, collaborative wasted food reduction and composting program. Students weigh, measure, chart and keep accurate data from eight school sites. The data is sent electronically to the County each day.
The Eco Leaders are the first high school students in California to participate in the EPA's Food Recovery Challenge. Nutrition staff reported revisions to their food preparation practices after seeing how much food was going to waste. Prepared food suitable for donation is placed in a walk-in freezer and collected weekly by a local pantry, the Ramona Food & Clothes Closet. This food is distributed to the underserved in the community. Vegetable peels, salad bar leftovers, and bakery food scraps designated for animal feed go into marked buckets, put into a walk-in refrigerator, and delivered to Ramona High School Ag Department's farm the next morning. Material that can't be served to humans or animals goes into specially marked buckets, also placed in the walk-in, and collected the following morning for incorporation into the Earth Tub. The finished compost is used in the high school's designated garden where students develop their gardening and culinary skills. The produce and resulting meals feed students, their families, school staff and is also given back to the community.
By the end of December 2016, the Eco Leaders source reduced 5,664 pounds, donated 11,555 pounds to charity, fed 6,097 pounds to farm animals on campus, and composted 8,191 pounds of food - returning valuable nutrients to the garden soil. Finally, the activities practiced within the Eco-Leaders program help to fulfill every element of the Career Ready Practices of the Common Career Technical Core, "a state-led initiative to establish a set of rigorous, high quality standards for Career Technical Education."

Read about the 2017 Food Recovery Challenge National Award Winners
Source: U.S. EPA