Moorestown’s Mary E. Roberts Elementary School started its No Food Left Behind program in 2019, but continues to work with the township’s First Baptist Church and organizations such as the Mount Laurel Animal Hospital to teach children a valuable lesson on food waste.
The school received $2,000 from the Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant to start No Food Left Behind, a food conservation program that helps prevent uneaten and unopened meals from entering the waste stream by assisting students with sorting and saving what they don’t use. The grant is funded by the PSEG Foundation and supports 34 on-the-ground, sustainability and capacity-building projects in schools and districts across the state.
Recovered food is distributed every Tuesday to the church and animal hospital. Roberts school also collects recyclable plastics such as Little Bites Muffins wrappers, then donates everything to the recycling company Terracycle.
Principal Brian Carter explained how the program works and noted that the grant provided a refrigerator, a table and bins for recyclable plastics.
“During breakfast and then during lunches, we have these two bins, and any of the food that they purchase and they’re not going to eat, they put in here (the bins),” he explained, adding that school staffers go through the bins to make sure food is unopened.
Paraprofessional Sally Wilson explained how the program merged with the animal hospital.
“We were actually teamed with Paws (Discovery) Farm … and it was a great rescue area,” she noted. “It was great. They took our food and volunteers would bring it and leave it, and the ladies just loved it. And it was the same model that we’re using now.”
After the farm shut down, Wilson got the animal hospital to partner with the school in the food effort.
“It’s more the knowledge that the kids know that it’s (the food) going somewhere,” she said. “If they don’t eat their orange, an animal is going to get it, which is great.”
All foods must be properly sorted and volunteers or paraprofessionals must follow instructions that include boxing items and checking the freezer for any food left. Donated foods include milk, yogurt and cheese sticks.
Wilson praised the support for the food program from Moorestown’s Home and School Association.
“They’re happy, because it’s something they can do,” she said. “It’s fairly easy and it’s up and running.”
“It runs itself, but it doesn’t run itself, once you get it up and running,” Carter noted. “I think right now, it’s in such a place where kind of … the wheels are turning and it’s going, but it takes a lot of effort to get it started.”
“If we didn’t have somebody like Sally (Wilson), it would have never gotten off the ground.”