Chew On This: BLS Food Updates

By Darren Seto (I) and Trinity Ngo (IV)

Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network (YouthCAN) recently launched a composting pilot in partnership with Black Earth Compost, an organization committed to making businesses in eastern Massachusetts more sustainable.

Following lunch in the School’s Dining Hall, students are encouraged to dispose of their food scraps in green composting bins. Student volunteers then sift through the bins with tongs, removing non-compostable products like cartons and banana stickers. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Black Earth Compost picks up the waste for processing at their specialized facility.

The pilot has been in the works for about a decade but has faced several setbacks, including a lack of available composting partnerships. Virginia Leary, the Zero Waste and Sustainability Project Manager for Boston Public Schools, however, helped restart the pilot in partnership with Black Earth Compost.

In Massachusetts, businesses that generate more than one-half ton of food waste per week are required by law to have a disposal plan that does not involve dumping waste into municipal waste streams. This law, however, does not apply to public facilities, such as school buildings. YouthCAN co-president Maya Nelson (I) remarks, “Boston Latin School absolutely generates over the threshold where any sort of other building would be required to compost their food waste.”

At the Black Earth Compost facility, food waste is exposed to hot air and pressure, speeding up the decomposition process and producing nutrient-rich soil amendment. This process also produces heat, which can fuel machines or power grids.

One challenge that the School faced while implementing the pilot was the lack of clarity about which items could be composted. As a result, YouthCAN members re-sort composting bins after school to mitigate contamination. Zone Captain Emily Yu (III) shares, “If you can eat it, then it goes in the green bin.”

The dining hall has seen other changes this school year. Last fall, BPS began a contract with City Fresh Foods, a Roxbury-based Black-owned business, to produce packaged lunches. Head of School Jason Gallagher explains, “We had to have food delivered in because we did not have enough staff in the kitchen to make the food here. Once we were fully staffed in the kitchen, we went back to having the meals made here and prepared here.”

Diversifying its sources, the school district’s Food & Nutrition Services now partners with a range of suppliers, among them Ace Endico New England and Czajkowski Farm, according to co-chair Kelly Thompson.

The School’s composting pilot represents a meaningful stride towards sustainability. Head of SchoolGallagher remarks, “Our goal now is just to get a little better at it every day.”