Weare student addresses nation on food waste

  • Elka Fuller, a seventh grader at Weare Middle School, wrote a speech about food waste that she will perform nationally. Eileen O'Grady / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/6/2022 4:12:03 PM
Modified: 6/6/2022 4:09:53 PM

A Weare Middle School student is getting a national platform on June 7 to talk about the issue of school food waste and climate change.

Seventh-grader Elka Fuller is one of 13 students across the country who have been selected for Soapbox Nation, a public speaking contest run by the civics education organization The Mikva Challenge. Participating students submitted two-minute call-to-action speeches about an issue that impacts them and their community.

In Fuller’s speech, she talks about how full the trash cans get at lunchtime in her school cafeteria, and how food waste contributes to global warming.

“One of the first things I noticed was the cafeteria’s trash can, it really bothered me that they were so full,” Fuller says in her speech. “I sat there and watched them take at least two out every lunch period, most of this food uneaten fully-packaged food and paper plates.”

Food waste contributes to climate change through greenhouse gasses according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, due to food production generating CO2 emissions and food waste generating methane in the landfills.

A 2019 study by the World Wildlife Organization estimates U.S. schools generate on average 39.2 pounds of food waste and 28.7 cartons of milk waste per student every year. The study estimated that nationwide, food waste in schools (excluding milk) could be as much as 530,000 tons per year.

Last year, Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill into law that seeks to address the two issues of food waste and childhood hunger by allowing school districts to partner with a nonprofit organization to freeze leftover food from school and turn them into “TV dinners” that students can take home and eat over the weekend.

In her speech, Elka recommends schools place three different types of bins in their cafeterias: one for regular trash, one for compost and one for fully-packaged, uneaten food to be donated.

“This topic makes me frustrated and scared but I know I’m not the only one who’s trying to stop it,” Fuller said in her speech. “when you hear about this problem, don’t just sigh and dismiss it. Think of ways to decrease cafeteria waste and stop climate change.”

Fuller will speak at the program’s culminating event, Soapbox Nation Mainstage, Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will be broadcast via Zoom. For more details, visit mikvachallenge.org/soapbox-nation.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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