IPS student recognized for efforts to reduce food waste at school

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A seventh grade girl is on a mission to reduce food waste at her Indianapolis school. Her work is now getting her national recognition.

Ella Comerford-Barnett attends Rousseau McClellan IPS School 91. She is passionate about recycling and wanted to start an effort at her school to reduce the amount of food that was ending up in the trash at the end of each lunch period.

She turned to her friend Sophie Raes to put together a plan to rescue unwrapped food and donate it to shelters and pantries. Their school principal gave them the green light.

"We’ve just been rescuing food, recycling what can be recycled, ever since," Comerford-Barnett said.

During lunch, student volunteers help sort through unused food. The items are carted away and carefully stored. Each day, a certain organization stops by the school to pick up the food donations. Even the youngest students at the school are aware of the initiative.

"It's great knowing that even little kids can make a difference," Raes said.

Among the groups that receive food donations from School 91 are Wheeler Mission, Neighborhood Fellowship and Boulevard Place Food Pantry.

"So many people are living in poverty and we’ve heard some really moving stories from people who say now they can afford to feed their children and pay their bills because of food rescue," Comerford-Barnett said.

Students from other districts have even visited the school to chat with kids about how to create a food rescue program at their own schools.

IPS has been focusing on food waste reduction. The district started with a pilot program of just a few schools doing food rescue. This academic year, there are 20 schools with food recovery programs. They would like to expand the programs to 10 more schools.

Comerford-Barnett has been awarded the Power of Children Award for her work at the school. She is among just six winners in the nation.

To learn more about K-12 Food Rescue, click here.