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 Ramona High School Wins National Food Recovery Challenge

Ramona High School, in the Ramona Unified School District, was one 13 organizations and businesses nationwide recognized last week for participating in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Food Recovery Challenge. The Ramona High School students are the first high school students in California (and the fourth in the nation) to participate in the challenge.

The Eco-Leaders at Ramona High School are a small group of students who participate in a Functional Skills program and are committed to making change in the world. Led by their teacher, Gloria Quinn, and in collaboration with the County of San Diego, they run a district-wide food waste reduction and composting program. 

“It is an honor for Ramona High School to be recognized on a national level by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for leading the way in food recovery education,” said Superintendent Anne Staffieri, Ed.D.

The Eco-Leaders weigh, measure, chart, and keep accurate data from eight school sites. This data is sent electronically to the County each day. The program follows the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy of source reduction, food donation, and animal feed methods which are employed to maximize community and environmental value. Academic subjects are brought to life and connected to the community, while developing independent living skills and purpose.

As a model program, the students at Ramona High School and their teacher have given numerous presentations and on-site demonstrations believing that everyone can "save the world.” Guests have included representatives from municipalities, school districts, class clubs, teachers, government agencies, and advisory committees.

In 2015, more than 800 governments, businesses and organizations participated in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. Participants include organizations such as grocers, restaurants, educational institutions, and sports and entertainment venues, who together kept more than 690,000 tons of food from being wasted. These efforts reduced carbon emissions equivalent to taking approximately 86,000 cars off the road for a year and saved businesses up to $35 million in avoided waste disposal fees.

“The waste reduction efforts of this year’s award winners, as well as all Food Recovery Challenge participants and endorsers, are leading the way for the United States to meet the national goal to cut food loss and waste in half by 2030,” said Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management. “These Food Recovery Challenge award winners are reducing food loss and waste within their communities to make America a healthier, more sustainable nation. They are leading by example and have reduced their climate footprint, helped communities and achieved cost savings by taking actions based on EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy and sustainable materials management best practices.”

In the United States, wasted food carries significant economic and environmental costs. Food accounts for the largest share of the municipal waste stream, with roughly 77 billion pounds discarded each year. The estimated value of food that goes uneaten each year is $161.6 billion, costing the average family up to $1,500. Uneaten food and other organic materials in landfills decompose and generate methane, a significantly harmful greenhouse gas. Landfills are one of the largest sources of methane emissions produced from human activity.

To reduce their food waste, Food Recovery Challenge participants use creative practices such as:
  • Recovering food from farmers’ markets
  • Creating food waste volunteer programs in high schools
  • Giving college students the option to choose what goes on their plates
  • Using tools to improve portion control and meal forecasting
  • Adding infrastructure to more efficiently distribute perishable produce