Child at the table eating
children eating food

Originally written by experts with the Three O’clock Project


The term "food waste" refers to uneaten or unused food that gets thrown away. Most often this waste is transported to landfills with other garbage, where it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 40 years to decompose. Food waste occurs at many stages of a food's life, including production, processing, retailing, and consuming.

While we may not think much about tossing out our leftovers after supper, or that crate of strawberries we never got around to eating, these things do have a considerable impact on our environment. Becoming mindful about these behaviors can make a difference – especially if you share them with others in your home, classroom, or community. Educating our youth is the best tool we have in securing a happy and healthy environment for our children to grow and thrive.


So, what can we do?


For the adults:


Engage Schools

Talk to school officials about starting a compost on-site for cafeteria waste. Request recyclable/compostable packaging for breakfast and lunch items served at your school. Ask to contribute to the school newsletter with information about your school's food waste. Request longer meal periods for school children so they don't have to rush through meals. Ask school officials to consider holding meal service after recess so kids work up more of an appetite, and in turn, waste less food.


Engage Your Community

Contact community leaders about starting a community garden & compost. Contact local farmers to talk to your school. Get involved with local environmental groups to brainstorm about how to tackle food waste in your community.


Educate & Implement at Home
  • Find ways to utilize parts of food typically tossed out, like roasting veggie skins or using the tops of carrots in a salad or vegetable broth.
  • Save & use leftovers: Have a leftover spinach salad from lunch? Sauté it and add it over pasta for dinner. Leftover steamed carrots from dinner? Mash over toast with cinnamon for a tasty breakfast. Get creative!
  • Plan for the week & make grocery lists if you can. Only buy what you need.
  • Serve appropriate portions. Overloading supper plates may cause excess waste.
  • Give kids enough time to eat & they will likely eat more.
  • Freeze what you won't use: Save fruits for smoothies, and veggies for broth. Freeze the other half of your gumbo, Shepard’s pie, or spaghetti sauce to eat another time when you need a quick supper, rather than tossing it out.
  • Incorporate learning activities into everyday tasks like making the grocery list, taking out the trash, or cooking supper.


For the kids:


Ugly Food Taste Test

Present kids with a "normal" vegetable and an "ugly" one. For example, 1 smooth straight carrot and 1 deformed carrot. Have them taste each one (blindfolded or not). Discuss the similarities and differences. Then, use them for a recipe.


Grow from Scraps

Scrap growing is great for kids because 1) there are plenty of scraps that grow rapidly (hello instant gratification) and 2) it gives kids a big picture view of the life cycle of a food. Some ideas: Place the base of iceberg lettuce, green onions, or celery in a jar with water and watch it sprout in just days. Plant the base of an onion, or clove of garlic in wet soil. Remove the seeds from strawberries, raspberries, or lemons and place in wet soil. There are so many easy-to-grow fruits and vegetables that are likely already on your grocery list or in your kitchen!


Other Ways to Use Your Scraps

Show kids that there are all kinds of creative ways to use your food scraps! Roast potato skins. Use wilting zucchini and carrots, mushy banana, or browning avocado for baking bread and muffins. Save citrus peels for making tea, or homemade surface cleaner. Throw leftover Parmesan rinds into soup for added flavor. Turn leftover bread into croutons, French toast, or bread pudding. You get the idea!


Start a Compost

Composting can be really fun for kids! Emptying the scrap pale into the pile, collecting "tea" from a vermicompost, turning the compost pile, and adding compost to your garden are all great activities for kids to learn about decomposition and the full life cycle of a food.


Originally posted by the Three O’clock Project: 

About Feed the Children

At Feed the Children, we feed hungry kids. We envision a world where no child goes to bed hungry. In the U.S. and internationally, we are dedicated to helping families and communities achieve stable lives and to reducing the need for help tomorrow, while providing food and resources to help them today. We distribute product donations from corporate donors to local community partners, we provide support for teachers and students, and we mobilize resources quickly to aid recovery efforts when natural disasters strike. Internationally, we manage child-focused community development programs in 8 countries. We welcome partnerships because we know our work would not be possible without collaborative relationships.

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