RIO RANCHO, N.M. – There’s one group of young eaters who like Michelle Obama’s school lunch program: pigs.
New Mexico’s Galloping Grace Youth Ranch is accepting fruits and vegetables thrown away by students at several elementary schools in the Rio Rancho area and collects some five tons per week.
“It’s really whatever they don’t eat coming off of their trays, so when they get up to the trash cans they will scrape it into one of our buckets that we pick up on a daily basis,” ranch CEO Max Wade tells KRQE.
Speaking of the pigs, goats and chickens gobbling up the students’ castaways, Wade says, “If you think about it, it’s a fresh salad bar every day. Fruits and vegetables and they love it.”
To underscore the point, he’s talking about the farm animals, not the school children.
Earlier this year, a New York district estimated its students throw away 85 percent of their fruits and vegetables.
“We throw away a ton of food,” Canton Central School Food Service Director Ella Mae “Bluejay” Fenlong tells the Watertown Daily Times.
“If we cut up 20 pounds of cucumbers, we guess that 17 pounds get thrown away. I’ve watched kids take their cup of vegetables or fruit they’re required to take and just throw it away.”
American schools spend an estimated $3.5 million per day on food that ends up in the garbage can.
Interestingly, the Rio Rancho “healthy” school lunch repurposing program isn’t unique.
The Nebraska Farmers Union was working to partner with Lincoln-area schools to collect discarded food to fuel a worm farm, known as vermiculture.
“Composting gives them more hands-on experience. They can see how their waste is going to be turned into a useful product rather than going into a landfill,” says Brittney Albin, interim recycling coordinator at Lincoln Public Schools.
She says she isn’t sure how much of the 11,600 pounds of food waste per month come from the cafeteria.
“However, food waste does make up a large portion of the school waste, so we would expect the vermicomposting program to make a big dent in that number,” Albin tells the Journal Star.
Some 3,000 pigs at a Rhode Island hog farm scarf up uneaten fruits and vegetables, too.
The pigs are enjoying “half-eaten tuna sandwiches and other food scraps students discard during their lunch periods” as part of a new recycling program established by the town of Cumberland, according to WoonsocketCall.com.
Two Rhode Island districts – North Smithfield and Burrillville – that are sending their scraps to My Blue Heaven Farm. Both districts are participants in the National School Lunch Program, which is implementing the hated federal lunch rules.