The EPA, USDA, and University of Arkansas have co-authored a guidance document to help K-12 schools perform food waste audits to determine their "foodprint" and baseline food waste data. In coordination with the release of the guidance document, the World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Research & Education Foundation, and EPA are sponsoring a food waste audit program for 100 schools. The first 100 schools that enroll will receive resources and materials to support the waste audit effort. Additionally, schools that enroll in the waste audit will have the opportunity to be randomly selected to win cash prizes to help supplement extracurricular program costs.
Food waste is one of the most significant ongoing sustainability and public health issues facing Tennesseans. An estimated 40% of all food in the US goes uneaten, 25% of water use in the country goes towards growing that uneaten food, food waste comprises 21% of the waste stream destined for landfill disposal, it squanders 31% of all croplands, and 30% of all fertilizer used. In addition to the resources lost, 15% of all households in Tennessee are considered food insecure; meaning that more than 1 in 7 people in the state lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. By encouraging schools to enroll in this program, students will be offered an experiential education opportunity to both assess their foodprint and learn about their impacts. Other schools around the nation that have performed food waste audits have identified opportunities to support food recovery efforts, benefiting those considered food insecure by diverting resources to their highest possible use (food recovery).
This effort is supportive of Objective 4 of TDEC's 2025 Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan, as well as the state’s role as an Endorser of the EPA Food Recovery Challenge, in which we are tasked with encouraging organizations to enroll in the voluntary reporting program where they track their progress towards food waste reduction, recovery, and diversion.
To enroll you school in the program please visit https://erefdn.org/school-cafeteria-waste/