Birchwood Middle School

Food Waste Audit Results –


What is food waste made up of?

The pie charts show the percentage each type of lunchroom waste represents.

Chart 1 shows that food waste represents most of the waste in the lunchroom.

By sorting, recovering and composting, look at how much we have reduced the amount of waste going to the landfill!

Chart 2 shows the five components – Recoverable Food, Liquids, Recycling, Landfill and Food Scraps.

  • Which categories of waste are the biggest?
  • In what ways can we reduce them?

Recovering food at the Share Table and Refrigerator.

It is often surprising how much perfectly good, uneaten food ends up on the share table. This food used to go to the landfill. 

Too many students either take or are served food that they don’t eat. 

We now collect the food using safe food handling guidelines and offer it to students who are still hungry and sometimes donate it to local food pantries. 

According to “Leftover Cuisine,” a food rescue organization, one meal is calibrated as 1.2 lbs. of recovered food.

Look at how many meals we have provided by recovering food at the share table!


Food Recovered: 18037 lbs.
Meals Created: 822.17

Preventing food from being wasted.


In addition to composting tons of food waste and recovering thousands of pounds of perfectly good food, we need to stop wasting so much food!

We use  precious resources to grow, process, package, store, and distribute food. All of that is wasted if the food doesn’t get eaten. Therefore, the best thing for the environmental is to prevent food from getting wasted in the first place.

The official U.S. Food Waste Reduction Goal is to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. Climate scientists say that we cannot limit the warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius if we don’t achieve this goal to reduce food waste. 

So, to do our part in moderating the effects of climate change, we need to reduce the food we waste by 50%.

Food Waste per student is a factor that allows us to track how much we reduce food waste. (We annualize the number to make it more tangible)

How much has your school reduced food waste? How close is your school to reaching the 50% reduction goal? In what ways can we continue to reduce food waste?

Environmental Impact

There are two reasons that food waste is bad for the environment. First, it is filling up our landfills and it creates significant greenhouse gas emissions in the form of methane, a gas many, many times more potent than Carbon Dioxide. 

The second reason is even more important. It considers the resources used to grow and produce food… land, water, fertilizer and energy used to run the tractors and other farm equipment and also the processing and packaging of food and transportation to stores and restaurants… all of that is wasted when we waste food.

Here is a list of the resources used in the United States to produce food that gets wasted:

  • 140 million acres agricultural land – an area the size of California and New York combined;
  • 5.9 trillion gallons blue water – equal to the annual water use of 50 million American homes;
  • 4 billion pounds fertilizer – enough to grow all the plant-based foods produced each year in the United States for domestic consumption;
  • 664 billion kWh energy – enough to power more than 50 million US homes for a year; and
  • 170 million MTCO2e greenhouse gas emissions (excluding landfill emissions) – equal to the annual CO2 emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants… all to produce the food that we waste.

So, as we divert food waste from the landfill and reduce food waste per student, we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving resources. And we can calculate these reductions in Metric Tons of C02  and see what that means using the Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator | US EPA . Check out what your school is doing for the planet!

Food Waste Diverted: 3.68 MTCO2
Food Waste Prevented: 9.65 MTCO2
Food Waste Total: 13.33 MTCO2