We are thrilled to announce that Cafeteria Culture was selected as a winner of the inaugural UL Innovative Education Award! As a tier 2 winner, we received a $50,000 ward from UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and NAAEE (North America Association for Environmental Education) to expand our ARTS+ACTION Program!!! We'll get to work closely with the incredible UL team and fellow grantees to make an even bigger impact in NYC schools and beyond!!
A HUGE THANK YOU to UL and NAAEE!
The UL Innovative Education Award (ULIEA) is the first-of-its-kind initiative designed to invest in environmental and STEM education, sustainable communities, and youth empowerment and was open to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada that serve to motivate K-12 students. Read more about the five winning organizations here ->.
We could not have won this award without the support of our amazing partners and supporters!
Are you aware that everything you "throw away" will be negatively impacting some community along the journey to a waste transfer station, landfill or incinerator?
Most NYC residents never think about this, unless, of course, garbage is being dumped in one's own "backyard." So why should you care?
Watch this short video, created by 8th graders in our program, and find out!
There is not a single NYC community that wants hundreds of garbage filled, carbon spewing trucks driving through it's streets. NYC is close to spending $1 BILLION on improving NYC garbage transfer yet, we spend only a tiny fraction of that amount on innovating REDUCE EDUCATION! (more ->)
Please DONATE here to help us complete this video and more like it!
This fall, NYC will be expanding the organics (aka compost) collection to include 700 or, roughly 40% of all NYC schools, across 3 boroughs! read more
It is particularly challenging for principals to allocate limited staff time towards initiating and maintaining new cafeteria procedure. Contaminated bins are all too common. Students and staff need inspiration!
SCHOOLS NEED TOOLS!
Our school programs empower students as leaders in the cafeteria, who oversee all recylcing, composting and proper sorting. "Sortin' It Out" - the music video is just the lead-in! We are close to completing more great videos, as part of our on-line TOOLKIT.
COST of our THROW AWAY CULTURE
NYC taxpayers spend $330 million per year to export garbage in gas sucking, carbon spewing trucks, that crisscross the city, first to waste transfer stations located primarily in low-income minority neighborhoods, then to out of state landfills and incinerators.
The entire trash cycle contributes carbon and methane emissions to global warming. While the city is due to spend millions on constructing new waste transfer stations, only a small fraction of NYC tax dollars are spent on recycling and climate education.
Cafeteria Culture has been piloting cutting edge, interdisciplinary curriculum via our school programs. We believe that all NYC students, regardless of resources, should be climate literate!
CafCu's Edu-tainment media - made with and for NYC youth - can revolutionize the city's recycling and composting communication, while empowering minority youth as partners in creating climate-smart messaging.
CO-CREATING WITH YOUTH!
Youth drive trends, fearlessly pushing the limits of e-culture. CafCu's school programs are giving positive notice to youth as trend setters in a sustainability context and NYC is benefiting!
WHY CAFETERIA CULTURE?
Our team collaboratively catalyzed Trayless Tuesday citywide and more recently, new policies that will imminently rid all of NYC schools, along with the 5 largest US school districts, of 3 MILLION toxic and polluting styrene foam trays per day!
We have spent thousands of hours in school cafeterias across the city, collaboratively innovating, teaching, observing, and piloting new methods. We are the NYC school cafeteria waste reduction innovators!
See the US EPA's Student's Guide to Global Climate Change here.
Youth artists create moving-messages
to promote composting
We love the challenge of solving problems, especially when we are co-creating solutions with kids!
Last spring, we piloted our first After School ARTS+ACTION program at PS 167 The Parkway School (Crown Heights, Brooklyn). The school's fabulous eco-artists learned the "why" and the "how" of recycling & composting, then were delighted to paint their original eco-messages right onto the school's compost totes (aka, bins with wheels). The boring brown totes were transformed with bold student designs. Wheeled to the curbside each afternoon, the art and messages are shared with the neighboring community.
But there's more to painting totes than beautifying the curbside, sharing eco-messages, and taking kids' art to the streets.
The NYC School Organics (composting) Program recently expanded from 60 schools to over 400, with plans to accommodate all 1,800 public schools. The cafeteria lunch period, however, is full of challenges for achieving proper sorting and ensuring program success. Due to limited cafeteria staff, few educational components, and lack of kid appealing signage and incentives, the end-of-lunch contents of the compost totes often look identical to that of the trash bins.
The bright paintings on the totes help students and staff to take notice, reminding everyone to correctly sort food scraps and organics.
Additionally, curbside theft of these new totes is a growing problem. By transforming the totes with not-to-be-missed bright artwork, we hope to discourage thieves from wheeling them off of school property.
Our team has spent thousands of hours teaching students and working with school staff on garbage reduction initiatives. We are constantly piloting new ways of engaging entire school communities, improving cafeteria recycling, composting, & sorting procedures, and optimizing design. We are also testing new methods of co-creating media & messaging with youth on the environmental injustice of NYC’s 11,000 tons of school and home garbage generated daily and its inextricable link to climate change.
A HUGE THANKS to AWESOME FOUNDATION NYC and NYC City Councilmember (now NYC Public Advocate) Letitia James, for supporting this project.
Learn more about our ARTS+ACTION School Program.
Help us to share more high quality programming with undeserved schools and communities. PLEASE DONATE!
When one of our eighth grade students at MS 246 turned to me with a huge smile and said this, I knew our Video Journalism curriculum was right on target. We are not only training students to be leaders in the cafeteria, we are teaching media production to teens so they can tell their own powerful stories about NYC’s garbage plight!
Right now, we urgently need your support to help students complete their timely videos and share them with thousands of youth across NYC. These student movies are shedding light on how the seemingly meaningless act of throwing something away is negatively impacting low income communities in NYC and beyond.
We are dedicated to piloting new curriculum that will inspire youth to take charge of their future and to take action to reduce Green House Gas emissions. Your generous gift will help us to bring more ARTS+ACTION environmental education to underserved NYC schools.
Thank you for helping us to achieve zero waste cafeterias and climate-smart public school communities.
Cafeteria Culture sincerely thanks:
- The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for generously funding our ARTS+ACTION Cafeteria Waste Reduction Program at MS 246!
- The entire MS 246 community for partnering with us.
- Just Add Water for camera donations!
- All of our generous donors who support our work in NYC schools!
Header Photos: Cafeteria Culture's Video Journalism workshop - students from Mr. Thornhill's ELA class at MS 246 Walt Whitman Middle School, Brooklyn, NY; Top Left and Right - students interviewing Flatbush residents about air quality and litter; Bottom Right - Atsuko Quirk, Cafeteria Culture Media Director, teaching camera technique to class 804.
Please email or call your New York City Council Member today (find them here). Urge her/him to VOTE YES on Int #1060. There are currently 21 co-signers on this bill and 26 votes are needed for this bill to pass. We are so close to getting styrene foam out of our city. NYC Council Members need to hear from you! (learn more).
Here is a sample message:
Dear Council Member,
I urge you to vote yes for Int #1060 to ban foam to-go containers and to protect the health of all NYC communities and our environment.
Polystyrene is toxic and polluting from the start of manufacturing and then, forever. It is an outdated material, destructive to both our health and natural world, and is a serious threat to our seafood chain. It does not belongs in our city’s waste management plan, as it is a costly contaminant to our compost and plastics recycling streams.
Hot food served in styrene foam may be especially dangerous to young children, pregnant women, and to those in low-income neighborhoods, who are more likely to be eating food in these toxic containers on a regular basis. Many people are still unaware that styrene leaches into hot foods and that these foam containers should never be microwaved.
The decision to ban polystyrene to-go containers belongs to the people of NYC, not to the chemical and polystyrene industry!
PLEASE SHARE THIS!
Cafeteria Culture is working with 15 environmental and community organizations to ensure the passage of this critical legislation (learn more here).
Thank you for taking action. Let's get toxic and polluting polystyrene foam out of our city and out of our lives!
New York City has issued a request for bids for compostable plates used to serve over 150 million meals per year in New York City public school cafeterias. [i]
The resulting contract will be available for use by school districts that are members of the Urban School Food Alliance, including: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Orange County and Miami-Dade County school districts. Combined, these school districts serve ~2.6 million meals daily and procure more than $530 million in food and food supplies annually.[ii] The bid is for a five year contract.
Key aspects of the specification include[iii]:
- 5 compartments able to hold 5 meal components
- Center compartment able to hold a ½ pint milk carton or bottle.
- Round or oval shapes for compartments are acceptable
- Prefer no pre-consumer materials used and where possible made entirely from one primary material such as sugarcane, post- consumer paper, wheat, etc.
- Must be food safe for all type and varieties of food and have FDA GRAS certification for food contact.
- Must not have a wax or plastic coating (polypropylene)[iv]
- Must be sturdy and durable, able to endure hot and cold food without seepage. Water proof and minor oil proof.
- All components of the product must be 100% certified compostable.
- Tested by a Biodegradable Products Institute certified lab and shown to be compliant with ASTM D6868.
Opportunity for Recyclable and Compostable Trays
While the solicitation specifies compostable trays, there is an opportunity to create trays that are both compostable and recyclable to provide greater choice regarding waste management options for each district. Cafeteria Culture an organization which has been instrumental in creating the shift toward zero waste school cafeterias in New York City has implemented the flip, tap, stack method of sorting which results in a clean, sorted stream of trays. Separating the trays in this way produces a stream of trays that can then be sent to a recycling or composting facility depending on the local infrastructure and the suitability of the design of the tray for recycling.
Please watch Cafeteria Culture’s video to see how it works:
Bids are due Nov. 19th at 4:00pm. A pre-bid conference will be held on Nov. 4th at 2:30pm.
The solicitation and requirements can be downloaded from the vendor portal here: https://vendorportal.nycenet.edu
[i] Combined breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners.
[ii] Urban School Food Alliance Celebrates One Year. July 15, 2013. Food Management.http://food-management.com/k-12-schools/urban-school-food-alliance-celebrates-one-year
[iii] Please download the solicitation for detailed specifications including dimension, thickness, etc.
[iv] Polypropylene is the only plastic coating explicitly specified in the specification included in the solicitation.
- We advocated for banning plastic-foam (polystyrene) trays and to-go containers, parading our giant NO-STYRO PUPPETS to show the public and elected officials what school garbage data actually looks like!
- We designed and taught K-5th grade curriculum, including stewardship, the how with the why of waste reduction, and how design, consumption & disposal choices connect to Climate Change.
- We collaborated at all levels, learning from students and school staff, then sharing valuable on-the-ground information with city and federal government agencies.
- We led student prototyping workshops; assisted with the piloting of new lunch trays, waste sorting stations, signage, and composting; and we surveyed students.
(** scroll to the bottom to read what NYC School Chancellor Walcott has said about our work)
- NYC's 860,000 plastic-foam (polystyrene) school lunch trays used per day are on their way out!
- The city announced plans to roll out composting of all food waste in all 1700 public schools by Fall 2014.
- Schools and residents can now recycle all rigid plastics, including cafeteria sporks!
Yet, with all the new procedures, bins, and signage on the way, two essential components for successfully reducing school garbage are missing: Student ENGAGEMENT and EDUCATION!
Please DONATE and help us to complete Phase 1 of our MULTI-MEDIA TOOLKIT, How to Set-up the Cafeteria Ranger Program, so we can share this with allschools, regardless of resources, next school year!
The Cafeteria Waste Reduction multi-media TOOLKIT will include:
- "how-to" peer-to-peer video shorts
- downloadable signs and badges
- scheduling templates
- companion lesson plans
WE HAVE SO MUCH GREAT NEWS!
- NYC School Food and 5 of the largest US school districts announced a new school food alliance to co-purchase higher quality trays and food while driving down cost. This 6-city purchasing power will eliminate 2.9 million plastic foam trays used per day, replacing them with biodegradable ware!
- Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a citywide ban on all plastic foam to-go containers and cups in NYC!
- And, just in time for Earth Day, Cafeteria Culture will receive a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Quality Award!!
After four years of catalyzing innovative pilots, educating school communities, creating cutting edge media, taking giant puppets to the streets, and plain ol’ persistence,we are closer than ever to completely eliminating toxic and polluting plastic foam food containers from our schools, our incinerators, and our lives!
Cafeteria Waste Reduction
At PS 20 in Manhattan's Lower East Side, we trained student Cafeteria Rangers, who reduced their cafeteria garbage bags from 14 to 4 on the very first day!
Stay tuned for our multi-media Toolkit. We are working very hard, so we can share our successful program with all schools ASAP.
The CafCu Team
Debby Lee, Atsuko, Diana, Brianna, and Josh
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After School Program
Foam Ban Bill
Golden Apple Award
Make Change Messaging
No Styro Puppets
NYC Organics Collection
Peer To Peer Media
Peer To Peer Video
Stop Motion Animation
Trash Free Waters
Youth Impact Media
Youth Made Media
Zero Waste School