With an enrollment of 37,000 students, Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) Nutrition Services (NS) operates one of the largest, federally funded Child Nutrition Programs in Minnesota. Food insecurity impacts three out of five SPPS students. SPPS NS serves over 8.4 million meals each year, and school breakfast, lunch, snack and supper programs are a lifeline for families struggling with food insecurity. Breakfast to Go (B2Go) or eating breakfast in classrooms was one of the key breakthroughs in addressing child hunger. SPPS NS introduced B2Go about 10 years ago in just one school. Today, SPPS NS serves 20,000 B2Go meals a day to over 60% of enrolled students. As the B2Go program has grown, so has the challenge to manage the waste generated in classrooms throughout school buildings.
In response to a growing concern within the SPPS community about the amount of B2Go waste being thrown away in trash, SPPS NS and the SPPS Facilities Department partnered with EcoConsilium to identify opportunities to reduce B2Go waste. We started with an inventory of the inbound, outbound and downstream waste generated throughout the B2Go supply chain. The results were eye-opening. Of the estimated 633 tons of B2Go waste the program generates a year, 47% is food and milk waste, 47% is food packaging waste, and 6% is foodservice supplies waste. We applied the strategies and techniques of the TRUE Zero Waste certification system to take a whole systems approach to the B2Go program aimed at changing how materials flow through the B2Go supply chain. We worked with the school district to create a plan to operate federally funded Child Nutrition Programs in a manner that embraces zero hunger and zero waste solutions.
The SPPS NS Zero2 Plan describes the thought, research and solutions to accomplish zero hunger and zero waste. Alongside the fundamental need to end hunger, SPPS NS is committed to reducing the amount of waste its meal programs produce by 2029. The first phase of this ten-year project will dramatically transform the B2Go program, the SPPS NS central production kitchen, and school recycling and compost programs. The stated goals of: (1) an environmentally preferable purchasing plan; and (2) reuse, recycle and compost collection systems are integrated and dependent upon one another. The Zero2 Plan establishes a financially and environmentally sustainable foundation for future project phases designed to end hunger and reduce waste for SPPS students and the Saint Paul community at large.