In bid to cut food waste, schools tracking how much food is thrown away

Updated: Dec. 20, 2019 at 4:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kapaa Middle School can serve up to 380 meals a day to students who, like other kids. are picky eaters. A lot of food they take at lunch gets tossed.

Food service manager Matt Woods wishes that wasn’t the case.

"I see a lot of brown rice going out. The kids aren't a big fan of that," he said.

The school is in the midst of a comprehensive two-week audit that measures and weighs food waste.

“I’d like to see empty trays, all the way around,” said Joel Edwards, of Malama Kauai.

The non-profit is teaming up with Zero Waste Kauai and Kokua Hawaii Foundation to conduct the lunchtime audits at nine Kauai public schools, including elementary, middle and high schools.

The preliminary findings are eye-opening.

"Just in a single day, a single elementary school, we're looking at 90 pounds of milk waste and that equates to about 50 gallons," said Jennifer Milholen, Kokua Hawaii waste reduction coordinator.

The schools are spread across Kauai.

“Just within our three complexes you’re seeing different eating patterns from the west-side kids to the north shore students,” Edwards said. “We’re even seeing that there’s different eating habits.”

Students sort what they discard and participate in surveys that gauge their tastes.

"Certain things the students say are not salty enough. But it's tricky because there's federal guidelines for how much salt can be on the plate," Milholen said.

The information will go to the Department of Education.

"I think it's good," Woods said.

The DOE can use the waste audit to tweak lunch menus so more food that’s served is eaten and less gets thrown away.

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