Rutgers Experts Available to Discuss Reduction of Food Waste in N.J. Schools

New Brunswick, N.J. (Aug. 7, 2019) – Rutgers experts Sara Elnakib and Jennifer Shukaitis are available to comment on the new “School Food Waste Reduction Toolkit” they co-authored on reducing food waste in New Jersey K-12 schools. They participated in a School Food Waste Reduction Summit last month.

An estimated 40 percent of the food grown in the United States is thrown out. Food wasted in schools comes from kitchen preparation as well as students, who may take more than they need or take required items they don’t want, according to the new toolkit.

Ways to reduce food waste in schools and food insecurity include share tables where students can put unopened food and beverages, so other students can take them at no cost, according to the toolkit. Extra food and beverages can also be redistributed in schools, such as through providing snacks in after-school programs and sending food home with students. Schools also can partner with food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other community groups to distribute remaining food.

Through a partnership with Paterson Public Schools, Rutgers Cooperative Extension has provided training and technical assistance for the food service staff since 2015. The school district was one of the first in New Jersey to fully audit food waste. Rutgers experts taught techniques to food service staff to encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce food waste, which dropped by 14 percent in 2017-18. The district saved an estimated 90,720 pounds of food worth $76,452 that school year.

Last fall, Rutgers Cooperative Extension faculty assessed cafeteria food waste in five public elementary schools in New Brunswick and trained food service staff in food waste reduction strategies. Between January and May this year, three elementary schools piloted lunchtime share tables and remaining food was donated to a soup kitchen. The school district prevented 3,871 pounds of food from being wasted and redistributed it to the community. This school year, the district may use food from share tables for after-school programs and a take-home program.

For interviews with Elnakib and Shukaitis, county agents in the Rutgers University Department of Family and Community Health Sciences in New Brunswick, please contact Todd Bates at todd.bates@rutgers.edu                                                                            ###

Broadcast interviews: Rutgers University has broadcast-quality TV and radio studios available for remote live or taped interviews with Rutgers experts. For more information, contact Neal Buccino at neal.buccino@echo.rutgers.edu

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