NUSD Decreases Food / Packaging Waste through Leadership Novato

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April 24, 2018
Let there Be Milk: Local leadership Project helps eliminate Waste
For Immediate Release
Please Contact Jennifer Larson at NUSD for questions


In partnership with the Novato Unified School District, Leadership Novato’s Team Atherton has supported the expansion of the “Milk Waste Reduction Program” introduced by Miguel Villarreal, Director of Food and Nutritional Services, in 2013. The students and staff at Hamilton Meadow Park School noticed the overwhelming amount of milk that was being thrown away each day. By installing a bulk milk dispenser at Hamilton Meadow Park School, they recorded an immediate savings of 10-15 gallons of milk per day. Through the Leadership Novato project, Team Atherton has raised $20,000 in value to purchase and install bulk milk dispensers at each of the six remaining elementary schools, as well as created a video to raise awareness about the impact of milk waste in our community. 
project history
In 2013, a team of sixth-grade students at Hamilton Meadow Park School identified a concern about the amount of milk that was being wasted every day. They asked their principal and the director of food services to support them in implementing a food and milk conservation effort. The students presented their concerns and ideas to the executives at Straus Family Creamery, who agreed to install a bulk milk dispenser at the school. The results have been astounding and far more impactful then they expected. Now those sixth graders are in eleventh grade and continuing their work with NUSD and Leadership Novato to expand the project. The collaborative effort has not only resulted in the addition of six more elementary schools to the project, but the creation of an informational video to illustrate the impact of student waste on our community.

Novato Unified School District’s Food and Nutritional Services Department recognizes the connection between healthy students and their ability to learn. Their mission is to enable students to establish and maintain life-long healthy habits through the foods served, supporting nutrition education, physical activity, and creating wellness partnerships throughout our community. A great deal of effort is put into selecting, preparing, and serving healthy, organic, locally grown meals each day. Unfortunately, the amount of food and milk that is wasted takes a financial toll on the Food and Nutritional Services Department.While great strides have been made to minimize food waste, milk continues to be the most significant problem. Milk is currently 25% of Novato Unified School District’s food cost, but unfortunately, much of that milk goes to waste each day.

project outcomes
Through the Novato Chamber’s 2018 Leadership Novato Program, Team Atherton has secured the funds and equipment necessary to expand the bulk milk program for every public elementary school in Novato. These machines will allow all students to have access to fresh, organic, cold milk daily and serve themselves a portion size appropriate for them. The positive effects can already be seen in the NUSD schools that have installed the bulk milk machines: less milk waste, more controlled portions and better working conditions for janitorial staff as 10-15 gallons of milk no longer winds up in the garbage.

The generous contributions made by Sonoma Area Land Trust, Rotary Club of Ignacio, the Engdahl Family Trust, Bank of Marin, Straus Family Creamery, and Novato Community Television have allowed for the expansion of this monumental sustainability project throughout all of Novato Unified School District.