October Challenge:  Food & Agriculture

This month, on October 17th, we celebrate International Eradication of Poverty Day.  I think it deserves more than a day’s glance, so let’s focus a whole month on it (at least).

Approximately 49 million Americans go to bed hungry every year.  Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty  reports that 15 million of those people are children who live in poverty.  That comes to be about 21% of all children, or 1 in 5, that live in poverty.  In the era that we live in today which is obsessed with obesity, healthy living, and student’s test scores, a child’s inability to obtain proper nutrients has dire effects on their mental and bodily healthy, including their ability to think.  Their inability to concentrate perpetuates their inability to acquire knowledge prevents them from being able to get the knowledge and skills required to be able to take the future reins of all the jobs and professions held today.

In teacher-speak, we refer to that principle using Maslow’s Hierarchy where students will not have the ability to learn until their most basic needs are met.  Even though there are many teachers like Sonya Romero-Smith of Albuquerque who do daily checks to make sure their students are clean and have eaten enough food, this is simply not enough.  Not when the rate of poverty continues to increase to over half of ALL students in the U.S. becoming eligible for free or reduced lunch.  Even the vice president for the Southern Education Foundation, Steve Suits, acknowledges this need for change, “We in no way are providing schools and teachers in schools with what it takes to educate low-income students today, as they continue to become a huge part of the school population.”

Luckily, though, there’s hope in front of us, folks!  The change of which we speak may very well reside right under our noses.  In our very own school yards.  As in, bringing Maslow to full physical fruition by providing for students’ primary needs.  It’s simple, really, and the best part is I speak not of a foreign concept because schools are already engaging.   To see what I’m talking about, check out the schools below to see what they’re up to and to get the conversation started at YOUR school!  Ready?? Set. GO!!

Challenge:  What can your school do to eliminate student hunger?  Measure and reduce food waste in your school and at home.  How much food wastage can you eliminate?

SHARE!  We want to hear about your projects, so please share them with us on Instagram.  Use the hashtag #OperationEndStudentHunger and win a chance to have your school recognized nationally via a re-post on our Project Green Schools IG page, as well other recognition opportunities.  For helpful tips on your school’s participation, check out the Guidelines for Operation: #viralSTEMchallenge.

Get the Conversation Started:  To give you some ideas, check out these 5 awesome initiatives in the realm of school sustainability.  These schools have all been recognized during this year’s 2017 Green Difference Awards for best practices in sustainability and student initiatives.

  1. Epiphany School Green House & Garden Ed Program: Epiphany School is a private, free-tuition school for low-income students.  Through the grade levels, their garden education is a mandatory element in their curriculum.  Benefits their students receive:
  1. Bates Elementary Food Waste Reduction Program: Located in Wellesley, MA, Bates Elementary was one of the first schools to participate in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Program.  The principal said of their participation, “This is an important national issue as since 40 percent of what is grown in the U.S. is never eaten, wasting an estimated 25 percent of our potable water and 4 percent of our power, while one in seven people are food insecure. Through our participation in the FRC program, we hope to encourage behavior changes in our own small community that might spark action on a larger scale.“  Through this experience, the students continue to help lead the way and helping other people to understand that food wastage not only helps to protect the environment, but also saves money and food, feeds people NOT landfills.
  2. KUA food waste pork project: Students at Kimball Union Academy have much to be proud of as they created a mighty dynamic nutrition program at their own school cafeteria.  The pride and joy of all their hard work is non-linear food production system in which they grow their own greens, care for animals, manage a complex aquaculture system, and tend to a composting program to keep it all in balance.
  3. Charter Oaks IB Academy: Thanks to the parent-led “Deep Roots” program at Charter Oaks, the school is seeking Connecticut Green LEAF School recognition which is a designation of schools that have “effective environmental and sustainability education for students and have improved the health and wellness of students and staff.”  A hallmark of their application process is a dynamic composting program that has taken over school culture.
  4. The Compass School: A school where environmental sustainability IS the culture of the school.  Environmental and social responsibility is the core of the curriculum and is infused into each lesson.