Christa McAuliffe Elementary and the Shawnee Mission School District Recognized for Composting and Recycling

Christa McAuliffe Team is recognized at event
Kristin Babcock

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 recognized the Shawnee Mission School District and Christa McAuliffe Elementary for their exemplary composting and recycling efforts. 

Christa McAuliffe earned a national Food Recovery Challenge award from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7. It was the only school in the country to receive this data-driven recognition in 2018. The school hosted a ceremony to celebrate this significant accomplishment and as the Shawnee Mission School District was recognized as an honoree in the 2017 Food Recovery Challenge. Click here to see a video.  

“The Shawnee Mission School District is serving as a leader and demonstrating to other school districts what is possible when schools embrace sustainability,” EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford said. 

Fifth-grader, Madison Boyle, opened the ceremony with remarks about recycling and composting at Christa McAuliffe Elementary. Boyle worked with Chuck Weismiller, who served as school custodian, when she was in fourth grade to help students recycle more in the lunchroom. Their leadership helped more students take ownership and contribute to the efforts at the school, Michael Orr, Christa McAuliffe principal said.

 “Our cafeteria supervisory staff also jumped on board and were willing to take the time to organize a positive set of expectations that the kids were very willing and able to follow,” he said.

Award recipients of the Food Recovery Challenge awards demonstrated the highest percent increases in their sector comparing year-to-year data.  McAuliffe composted 11,875 pounds of food waste in calendar year 2017, an increase from 5,625 pounds of food waste during the 2015-2016 school year.

The Shawnee Mission School District Food Service Department also helped Christa McAuliffe and schools across the district strengthen recycling and composting efforts. Styrofoam and straws are no longer used in cafeterias. Food is served on compostable trays with paper boats for individual servings. Water is served in paper cups to eliminate plastic water bottles. Milk and juice cartons are recycled.

“During 2017, Shawnee Mission diverted over 600,000 pounds of food and paper to compost,” Joan Leavens, coordinator for sustainability and community engagement said. “A portion was returned to schools as compost for school gardens and to the Broadmoor Urban Farm at the Center for Academic Achievement.”

The assembly at Christa McAuliffe Elementary also featured awards presentations by EPA representatives, remarks from Superintendent Mike Fulton, the Shawnee Mission West drumline, and Christa McAuliffe fifth and sixth-grade choir members who shared an original song about composting.

The district’s cafeteria composting program began in 2008 as a grassroots effort initiated by students, staff, administrators, parents and community partners. The efforts grew across district. Now, all schools in the Shawnee Mission School District participate in the program.