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EPA Environmental Education Grant to Rutgers will help Paterson, NJ students, teachers and parents reduce food waste

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Jennifer May-Reddy (

(New York, N.Y.) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, has been selected to receive funding to support a food waste reduction project in Paterson, NJ. EPA anticipates that it will award Rutgers an Environmental Education grant in the amount of $50,000 once all legal and administrative requirements are satisfied.

“We are very pleased to select Rutgers to receive this funding, which will help Paterson’s public schools increase local awareness of food waste as an environmental issue,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “Locally-focused environmental education projects like this increase public awareness and knowledge about environmental and conservation issues and provide the skills needed to make informed decisions and take responsible actions toward the environment.”

“A baseline study of the Paterson Public Schools showed that, on average, 84 pounds of food was wasted every day at each school in the district – that’s 310 tons of food waste every year,” said Sara Elnakib, Family and Community Health Sciences Educator of Rutgers University’s Cooperative Extension of Passaic County, who is working  on a food systems education program in Paterson, New Jersey alongside her colleagues,  Marycarmen Kunicki of 4-H Youth Development and Amy Rowe of the university’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The EPA’s funding will be instrumental to our Grow Healthy school initiative in raising awareness about the food waste problem, encouraging healthy consumption, and introducing food waste reduction strategies that can holistically be applied on the personal, institutional, and community level and will benefit the environment.”

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - $50,000

Project Title: Paterson Grow Healthy: Reducing Food Waste Through the Food Cycle

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Passaic County, a subset of The State University of New Jersey, will jointly manage this grant.  The project has two goals:

1) Work with students, teachers, cafeteria workers and parents in Paterson, NJ public schools, an environmental justice community, to increase awareness of food waste as an environmental issue and train them in methods of food waste reduction. Rutgers will host a Sustainable Schools Summit for select classes and teachers from participating Paterson Public Schools that will feature workshops and hands-on activities. They will also hold a separate workshop specifically for cafeteria staff to learn how to implement waste reduction practices in the lunchroom. Participant progress will be measured through pre- and post-training surveys and food waste studies.

2) The students and teachers trained through this program will be responsible for planting and maintaining school gardens and setting up compost bins to supplement their education of growing food and food waste.

Background on EPA’s Environmental Education Grant Program

Since 1992, EPA has distributed between $2 million and $3.5 million in EE grant funding per year, for a total of over $75 million supporting more than 3,700 grant projects. The program traditionally provides financial support for projects that design, demonstrate or disseminate environmental education practices, methods or techniques.

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