The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 awarded Shawnee Mission East a 2020 Food Recovery Challenge Award for its notable achievements in sustainable food management practices for 2019-2020. The EPA shared the announcement this week.
SM East received the award for its innovative cafeteria composting program. The program began in 2008 and spread across the district as a grassroots effort led by students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community partners.
By 2018, participation at SM East had decreased. SM East led an effort to reinvigorate the program and renew interest in proper recycling, food waste, and trash disposal practices. With district and school administrative support, equipment was refurbished. Johnson County Health and Environment staff, parents, and administrators also spent a week in the cafeteria, reeducating students about the purpose behind the process and what happens to food waste after it leaves the school.
As a result of these efforts, Shawnee Mission East students and staff composted 12.4 tons of food waste during 2019, a 538% increase in just one year.
The composted food is returned to SMSD school gardens and the culinary urban farm at the Center for Academic Achievement to enrich the soil and grow more food. District administration credits custodial staff, led by Dale Clark, and the SM East administrative staff for leading the cafeteria composting program to success.
Shawnee Mission seized the opportunity to build on efforts of elementary and middle schools who had previously engaged students in food waste composting, Director of Secondary Education and Former SM East Principal Dr. Scott Sherman explained.
“Younger students were accustomed to managing food waste, so we were able to build on those efforts and expectations, which led to a significant increase in the positive impact our high school had on diverting and managing food waste,” Sherman added.
According to a release from the EPA, nearly 600 businesses, governments and organizations actively participated in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge in 2020-2021. Since the launch of the program in 2011, participants prevented or diverted over 5.5 million tons of wasted food from entering landfills or incinerators.
To learn more about the SMSD’s composting and recycling efforts click here.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 has also previously recognized Christa McAuliffe Elementary School and Rising Star Elementary School with the Food Recovery Challenge Award.