Lunch out of Landfills

Every student, every school, every day.


Lunch out of Landfills began at Urbana High School in January 2018.

With a district grant and contributing funds from 5 Frederick MD Rotary clubs 14 schools were added in the fall of 2019 and operated until the pandemic shutdown.

At Lincoln Elementary a food recovery program was added and recovered on average 64 milks per day and taken to a local food bank.

As we emerge from the pandemic, entire school systems are looking for ways to divert waste, recover uneaten food and decontaminate recycling.

Rotary can lead the way by providing instruction, support for teachers and green team, containers and creating food recovery networks.

We successfully diverted 40 to 60% of landfill designated waste by providing containers for liquids, organics, recycling and trash.

In 2019 over 84% was diverted at Urbana Sugarloaf elementary.


Joe Richardson of Southern Frederick Rotary Club (Maryland, US) has created a complete Lunch out of Landfills Toolkit Rotarians can use to launch a program to empower schools to divert organics from landfills. Food waste currently causes an estimated 124 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in the US every year. Through Lunch out of Landfills your club can foster students’ environmental awareness and leadership. You may also be able to save schools money.

Joe led a pilot test of Lunch out of Landfills in one Frederick County elementary school last semester. Fifth graders documented a 85% reduction in the volume of waste sent to the landfill. This also slashed the emissions caused by transporting garbage to the landfill over 60 miles away from the school. Frederick County Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban, also a Rotarian, was so impressed that she allocated $10,000 to help expand the project to a total of 14 schools this year.

Participating schools recruit students as mentors to each other, and set up sorting stations in the cafeteria where students learn to separate what’s left on their trays among five options: a share table for food that’s untouched or still wrapped, a bucket for liquids, a bucket for organics that can be composted, a bin for recyclables and a bin for trash. In the picture above (by Lisa Orr), Joe and Annmarie Creamer of Frederick County Recycling are quizzing students at Urbana-Sugarloaf Elementary School on how to sort.

Joe’s developed an implementation plan and a wonderful Lunch out of Landfills toolkit. Materials include a power point for stakeholders , an assembly presentation for students (featuring a fabulous video of student Food Waste Warriors on slide 17), curriculum materials, and data collection sheets. The plan includes win-win proposals to engage key players from superintendents to lunch ladies. For example, custodians will have fewer, lighter bags to haul away when kids divert liquids and most solids from the garbage. Parents also play roles from choosing and packing food to volunteering in the lunchroom.

An increasing number of students around the world are pleading for action to reverse climate change.

Lunch out of Landfills empowers them to make huge progress on two major Drawdown strategies:

#3, reducing food waste and #66, composting. The program gives students rewarding ways to grow their skills in advocacy, science, and math.

As Joe has developed this project, it’s an ideal way for a local Rotary club to catalyze solutions by bringing people together. Each school teams up with a specific club. In Frederick County, the start-up cost of equipment is being shared by four Rotary clubs, the Rotary district, and the school system. The county-wide initiative also connects the school system and solid waste district. Finally, parents are drawn in. Students bring their new awareness home, as you’ll see in the hilarious video in the assembly power point.

Joe’s stakeholders power point cites data that 30-50% of the food produced in the U.S. is wasted, most of that going into landfills. The average US family throws away up to 25% of what they buy, he reports, losing $1,500-$2,500 a year.

The last slide of Joe’s stakeholder power point shows that schools could realize significant operating cost savings by needing fewer dumpster pickups. Compost pickup is cheaper.

Joe presenting the LOOL program
Visit our 3D Exhibitor Booth
Join a Meeting

We meet monthly as a taskforce team to develop the systems and projects. We are part of the ESRAG Drawdown family of Solutions Taskforces.

Join our Team

We are always looking for people like you wanting to make a real difference to our environment. Reducing Food Waste is one of the best ways to reduce Greenhouse Gases and improve Food Security.

Joe Richardson, Lunch Out Of Landfills program leader:

Want to take action with food waste?

Take action: interested in becoming a volunteer or starting a project?
We’d love to hear from you.