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Schools, Colleges & Universities

Schools create a significant amount of food waste. In fact, a study shows that food waste is the top item thrown away in schools. Given that, schools have an essential responsibility in not only reducing, recovering and recycling food waste, but also in educating students about recovering wholesome excess food for donation.

Separate food waste from breakfast or lunch for a day. Get the entire team on board — teachers, staff and students. At the end of service, weigh the food waste collected using buckets and a spare cart or trash can. You will be able to get an idea of how much food waste is created and what's in there - then you'll know better what could be prevented, recovered or composted.

A new publication, Reducing Food Waste: A Guide for South Carolina Schools offers many options to reduce food waste.


Make simple changes to school rules, especially in the cafeteria environment.

  • Use the offer vs. serve method.
  • Studies have found that serving lunch after recess can reduce plate waste by as much as 30 percent.
  • In the cafeteria, tactics like naming vegetables (i.g. creamy corn) can increase its selection by 40 to 70 percent.


Donation & Share Tables

Donation and share tables help those in need while reducing your need for waste pick-ups. The resources below provide important information and best practices for donating food from schools as well as setting up share tables.

The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was signed into law to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. The legislation offers protection for these donors from liability when donating food in good faith.

  • Don't assume food can't be donated.
  • Contact your local food bank, food rescue organization and other non-profits to learn what can be donated and how - these organizations accept fresh produce, non-perishable goods and prepared foods.
  • Set up a share table at your school.
  • Follow all food safety guidelines.



Composting keeps food waste out of the landfill and creates a nutrient-rich soil amendment for gardening or landscaping. Composting also may save you money by reducing your disposal costs as well as your water and fertilizer usage. To learn more visit Compost it. Don't Waste it.

  • Compost on site.
  • Contact an organics hauler (schools generating large amounts of food waste can have organics picked up).
  • Place compost bins in food prep and dining areas.
  • Create signage with instructions on what items can and can't go in bins.
  • Apply for grants to buy composting bins or help with hauling.
  • Recycle waste cooking oil with a biofuel manufacturer.


The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control also provides technical assistance, teacher training workshops and classroom presentations to schools through the Take Action SC program, the Take Action for a Cleaner Tomorrow K-12 Curriculum Supplement and the College and University Recycling Program.