Lessons on leftovers

  • Jessica Else/The Garden Island

    Sienna Yamashita considers which bin to deposit the food waste and trash left over from lunch.

    Jessica Else/The Garden Island Sienna Yamashita considers which bin to deposit the food waste and trash left over from lunch.

KAPAA — Kauai’s school-aged keiki don’t eat their brown rice.

That is, unless it comes with shoyu or some other kind of sauce or spice, according to Joell Edwards, farm-to-school program manager with Malama Kauai and food access coordinator for the County of Kauai.

Most of that brown rice just ends up in the food waste bins outside school cafeterias, along with some of the other less-favorable items on school menus, like pre-dressed salad.

While much of that food waste is then recycled as food for local farm animals — pigs and goats — schools, through the ‘Aina Pono farm-to-school program, are looking to decrease the amount of food waste coming out of cafeterias on Kauai.

That means serving what kids will eat, while also following nutrition guidelines.

To learn what those favored food items are, Edwards is teaming up with a few other organizations to do a waste audit at schools, weighing the already separated waste from cafeteria lunches and monitoring what gets thrown out and what gets eaten.

From there, schools can refine their menus. Jennifer Milholen, with Kokua Hawaii Foundation, pointed out an example.

“We ntoiced that on apple day, hundreds of whole apples were getting wasted, no bites at all,” Milholen said. “From that simple observation, slicers were introduced to many kitchens.”

Apple consumption went up by 50%.

Monday, Edwards was at Kapaa Middle School, one of four schools that were rolling out waste audits that day on Kauai. The audits last for nine school days, so those counting can get a good idea of what’s regularly eaten and what’s not.

At KMS, 36% of students ate school lunch in November.

Students went through the line and got lunch as they would on a regular day. Monday’s lunch was sloppy joe sandwiches. Then, they separated their waste out into different bins, with spaces for things like recyclables, trash and food waste.

Afterward, partners in the program, including Kokua Hawaii Foundation, Malama Kauai and Zero Waste Kauai, weigh the sorted waste.

“Here I think we’ll see kids don’t eat their brown rice, too,” said Matthew Woods, KMS cafeteria coordinator.

That could be because rice is a grain, one of the items kids are required to have on their plate every day. Woods explained some of the items on the menu are served and others are offered.

“We notice kids won’t eat as much of the vegetables, like broccoli for instance, but that’s offered versus served so if they don’t want it, they don’t put it on their plate,” Woods said.

Once the audit establishes a baseline of waste, a new menu will be introduced to the kids, one that is more fine-tuned to their tastes and will hopefully result in less food being tossed out.

In addition, kids eating cafeteria lunch are being required to fill out an online survey as the waste audit continues, so the school can understand what kids like and what they don’t.

As they went through the line to throw out their leftovers on Monday, some students talked about what they hope to see on the new menu.

“I hope there’s pizza,” said Sienna Yamashita.

Charlice Kenney reminded her that there’s already pizza on the menu. It’s universal favorite on campus.

“Then, I hope they have mangoes,” Yamashita said. “But some people have allergies to those.”

Kenney said she would be excited to see more fresh pineapple on lunch menus.

Woods said the new menu, which will be rolled out by the Department of Education in coming weeks, has things like chicken adobo sandwiches and luau stew.

That and other future menu items can change, though, depending upon the results of these waste audits.


Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or at jelse@thegardenisland.com

  1. LJ December 10, 2019 7:53 am Reply

    What a shock! Kids wont eat brown rice! which is hard, gritty, tasteless, and has for YEARS been proven to provide no additional benefit over white rice. Kids wont eat broccoli and salad?! Unheard of! It seems like the bureaucrats who arbitrarily made the nutrition guidelines that school cafeterias have to follow don’t actually have children of their own. Also FYI: I have never, in my life, eaten a “chicken adobe(adobo?) sandwich…how bout just, you know, CHICKEN ADOBO? Luau Stew, please for the love of god, don’t let a cafeteria serve something that looks so unappealing and will probably be butchered due to lack of funding (using SPINACH instead of taro leaf and sub-par meat). If the goal is to get kids to eat what the cafeteria serves, why not ASK THE STAFF who have CHILDREN what their kids like to eat? That’s where you’ll find the menu.

  2. IKNOWNOT December 10, 2019 9:13 am Reply

    Sounds as though these auditors don’t really have children in order to understand what kids like to eat now days. (example Brown rice?) ASK the KIDS what they like!!!!
    Back in the days we had simple lunches (pizza pockets, chicken sandwich, pizza, spaghetti, fish sandwich, salads with your choice of dressings, etc) and it still was nutritional.
    Kids today want easy, fun and good food. Think of a menu that kids like, chicken tenders, chicken sandwich, spaghetti, lasagna, pizza pocket, orange wedges, fruit cocktail, beef stew, kalua pork, shoyu chicken (boneless and skinless), sloppy joe and chili (you can always add vegetables in). However the DOE can set a menu BUT its up to the cafeteria workers to follow that menu and recipe.
    Take a look at KEKAHA Schools Breakfast and Lunch menus, they have the bomb items and the students enjoy their meals.

  3. Doug December 10, 2019 10:33 am Reply

    How sad, so much hunger on this island and yet kids are throwing out food because they are picky?????

  4. I saw a Vampire once December 10, 2019 11:30 am Reply

    I went to high school a long time ago. This was back in the 1980s. Eating lunch was a big factor for us. Seeing how we don’t get home until 3:00 p.m. and there maybe have a snack if we skipped out on lunch. But do the kids consider a filling lunch? Times have changed. I’m an adult now. And I can eat anything I want, not just school lunches. The good part about this is I turned out pretty well. I have made it my point to do the opposite of those people who I feel is not too healthy or not too smart. And turned things around. Eating salads is the normal choice for me. To prove it, I have gotten free salads from Foodland stores just for being a Maka’i card holder. And many times over. This is a great deal.

    I guess you can say I learned some things in school. But I didn’t take anything from it. The things I learned is from life. Eating anything I want, but doing it for a better reason. How about just eating it because it is the stylish thing to do. Sounds good to me.

  5. LJ December 10, 2019 12:20 pm Reply

    I keep hearing that clichè “So much hunger” yet I fail to see it… I do see a lot of homeless people buying sushi and musubi from 7-11 with EBT though.

    All beside the point, you think a 1st grader is aware of/cares about a broad idea like “world hunger” or is it more likely they’re thinking “Wow, brown rice sucks!”. I guess if it were up to you we could all FORCE kids to eat things the schools serve?

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