BRIDGEPORT --- Food waste is a massive problem at schools nationwide, but one staff member at New Beginnings Family Academy has taken steps to eliminate it.
Students at NBFA are served 477 free lunches and about 300 free breakfasts a day and up until a couple of years ago, there was still a lot of waste.
While streamlining the kitchen she took over in 2016, Lezli Albelo reached out to the community to assist in an effort to reduce food waste and get it to those most in need.
“Now, nothing goes in the trash unless it hits the floor,” Albelo, NBFA Food Services Supervisor, said.
Albelo has helped transform the school’s meal program into a zero waste, zero expense department.
As well as educating students on making the right food decisions to reduce waste, any leftover food is sent to a number of local regional organizations including senior centers, daycares, and local churches who then feed the homeless.
On Fridays, any leftover food goes to feed the homeless at Washington Park in the city.
“Some of these people haven’t eaten in a couple of days,” said Madeline Santiago, a member of Mi Roca, who hands out the food every Saturday starting at 11:30 a.m.
Santiago, who is also a Pre-K Instructional Assistant at NBFA, said her church has been around for 56 years and part of its mission has always been to help those in need.
“The food from New Beginnings helps a lot,” she said. “Without them we would have to purchase it all ourselves.”
Park City Adult Day Care, a bilingual adult day program dedicated to improving the quality of life for seniors, takes any leftover food from NBFA on a daily basis.
Albelo, who also helps run Bridgeport’s farmers market network during the summer months, said most of the food taken to Park City includes perishable snacks or leftover milk that would spoil quickly if not used.
Across the nation, cafeterias serve on average 30.5 million lunches in public schools every single day.
“A tremendous amount of this food will end up in trash bins, despite the fact that the vast majority of students receiving school meals come from low-income families and rely on school foods for as much as half their daily energy intake,” writes Juliana Cohen, assistant professor, Merrimack College and an adjunct assistant professor, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health,
in a recent opinion piece for the Huffington Post. “Our research has found that schools across the nation waste an estimated $1.2 billion of food each year. But before we try to address school food waste, let’s first get one thing straight: Food waste in schools has been a problem for decades.”
Cohen encourages supporting our food service directors to provide the best tasting foods possible.
“Food service directors and staff work tirelessly to provide nutritious meals to students every day with a limited budget, and our research has found that when they work with a professional chef to support their efforts throughout the school year, kids eat more and food waste in the cafeteria decreases,” she writes.
At NBFA, Albelo spends just $2.87 per lunch served. Two years ago, she switched meal providers to provide for more healthy and nutritious meals. Inevitably, there is still some extra meals, which now feed hundreds of hungry adults and children throughout the city.
About New Beginnings Family Academy
New Beginnings Family Academy (NBFA) is a tuition-free public charter school for students in grades Pre-K through 8th, located in Bridgeport, CT. Our mission is to provide students with a meaningful, high-quality education through experience-based learning that helps them develop essential social, emotional and critical-thinking skills. This gives all children the necessary foundation to achieve their full potential at every stage of life. To accomplish our goal of preparing students for life-long success, we work with experts from Bank Street College of Education to implement a progressive education model with emotionally responsive practice.
This model attends to the whole child, not just academics, and focuses on developing collaborative, socially responsible leaders by organically weaving ethics and character-building into daily instruction in small-class settings. Our student-focused approach brings out the best in each child by getting to know them individually, encouraging curiosity, and fostering their personal interests.
All NBFA students are selected through a blind lottery, and there are no admissions criteria.
To learn more visit www.nbfacademy.org