In a previous post, Mission Possible: Save Gaia, we are battle our first threat Food Waste.

I usually get my lunch at the cafeteria especially when I forget my lunch at home. As I was exiting the cafeteria, I have noticed a whole tray of food placed into the green compost bin. I’ve also noticed our students throwing away milk cartons and plastic sporks (“Spoon-Fork Utensil”) into the compost bin. We needed to get to bottom of this. A great place to start this journey is to figure out why our students are throwing away good food. This will be a good job for STEAM:Gaia to investigate and take up as the outcome of this boss battle is to lessen the amount of food waste going into the compost bin.

How did I introduce this cultural dilemma? Using the framework of design thinking, we started with the empathy stage.

EMPATHY: Let’s figure out the “WHATs” to define the “WHYs”?

Food Waste from a Global and National Point of View

Searching around Youtube using the keyword “Food Waste”, the video below came up on my list. It was eye opening.

What did you notice? A lot of good unexpired food currently thrown away. Given the stats on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United States is one of the top countries who wastes just below 300 kg/year of food which is equal to about half a ton.

Per capita food losses and waste, at consumption and pre-consumptions stages, 
in different regions

Within this data, productions to retailing make-up over half of the food waste, where as consumers make up less than half. Our students were astounded by the stats. They didn’t know where to start yet wanted to do something about it. As a facilitator, we had to collect data at our school.

Food Waste from a School Point of View

Our students did a 3 day food audit during lunch at our school. I believe experiencing food waste is more powerful than talking about it.

After reading some STEAM:Gaia student reflections, they’ve responded:

  • “I think its great for us because we get to see and visualize how much trash we usually have.”
  • “Why do people get lunch but don’t eat it and throw it away?”
  • “How many pounds of food gets wasted at our schools for a month?”
  • “I think about how homeless people don’t have food or cannot afford it and how kids have the chance to get free food and don’t eat it. I wonder if the kids even like the food and just came up with excuses.”
  • “I feel that people should use the leftovers to make compost or next time get things that you will eat.”

From the data we’ve collected, we have found out according to Daniel’s analysis,

Average Weight Of Each Food Group Thrown Way
“Our school has thrown away 2.7 kilograms of carbs. Also, 2.8 kilograms of fruits and vegetables. Also, 1.85 kilograms of protein. Last, 4.5 kilograms of liquids.The school has thrown away liquids the most because it’s the heaviest. The school throws protein the least. “

Types of Food Thrown Away

“Combination of had the most thrown away. (Combination was due to not being able separate food component from each other like a burrito) Protein had the least thrown away. “

Reasons Students Throw Away Their Food
“64 people said not interested. 6 people said completely devoured. 102 people said they didn’t like it. 0 people said it doesn’t taste good. 7 people said other things. last, people said they were full the most. People said  it doesn’t taste good the least. “


These are very power data points to look at as we tackle this boss battle. Our goal is to lessen food waste behavior and/or re-purpose food for something else so that we have less food going into dumpsters or our compost bin. Next steps, our STEAM:Gaia students will be developing a theory of action, action plan, and timeline so they can execute the action(s) and re-evaluate whether or not their action(s) had an effect as stated on their theory of action. Until then . . . return to our blog in a month to see the results of our student’s effort.

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