Conestoga Elementary School students and staff are participating in a pilot food composting program that is designed to cut cafeteria waste while creating compost for the school’s garden.
Students in December began diverting their biodegradable fruit and vegetable scraps from the trash during lunch and depositing them in composting buckets. The waste is weighed and then pulled by wagon to compost bins in the school’s garden.
The “Kids Can Compost!” project is a pilot undertaken by the Edible Classroom with assistance from the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority.
The week of Dec. 3, Beth Horst of The Edible Classroom taught lessons to grades 1 through 6 designed to introduce the concept of composting and its benefits. In a compost bin, foods like carrots and banana peels can decompose in a few months, unlike food buried in a landfill, which may not decompose for many years due to lack of oxygen to support decomposers.
Students and parent volunteers began the program the week of Dec. 10 under the direction of Horst with help from Manor FFA members from the high school. Over five days, students diverted 145 pounds of food scraps from the waste stream into the three-bin composter, built by Penn Manor High School junior Matt Julian for an Eagle Scout project.
After the first week, a group of students will oversee and run the program. Once the students are comfortable with their responsibilities, Edible Classroom staff will check in monthly to ensure the program is running smoothly. The Edible Classroom is seeking additional sponsors so it can offer the program to other schools in Lancaster County.
Horst said the project isn’t just designed to cut waste – she hopes it motivates students and their families to practice good environmental stewardship.
“I hope students are inspired to know that even they can take part in reducing waste and transforming it into something useful, like compost,” she said. “We want students to share what they’ve learned at home to open up the conversation about rethinking waste as a resource.”
If there is enough interest from the school and Conestoga parents, the Edible Classroom will offer a free home composting workshop at the school’s end-of-year picnic.