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Cotter gets FOODWise

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In efforts to keep Cotter as green as possible, Mrs. Mary Forney, Ms. Katie Halvorson, and Mr. Evan Howard, with the support of several students, have helped Cotter adopt the FOODWise program, which was created by Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center.

The idea of starting a FOODWise program here at Cotter came from Mrs. Forney after her last visit to Eagle Bluff in the spring of 2016. She has been working hard to help combat food waste at Cotter for many years and was finally able to gain enough support to start a concrete program.

“She (Mrs. Forney) started spreading the word among the faculty, and found those of us who were also interested in making this happen at Cotter- Mr. Howard, Ms. Juncewski, and me. We based our model after Eagle Bluff’s FOODWise program, which was started there through support from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as a way to encourage individuals and schools in Minnesota to become ‘FOODWise,” Ms. Halvorson said.

Composting at the Winona Farm site

According to the FOODWise mini guide provided by Eagle Bluff, there are three main goals to the program:

  1. Reduce cafeteria packaging waste
  2. Reduce student food waste
  3. Reduce food waste to landfill

Cotter is currently working on the first step, in and also outside of the cafeteria, making an effort to not only reduce packaging for cafeteria food but also reducing the amount of styrofoam and plastic used at school functions.

As for the second goal, reducing student food waste, there has been vast improvements because awareness was brought to the issue in the form of a slideshow presented to the whole school, there were competitions weighing different grades’ food waste, and there is necessary support from students who truly want to make a change.

Students showing their food-waste free tray on competition day.

“The FOODWise group is small, but pretty dedicated. Angela Zhen, Morgan Arnold, Grace Finnerty, Penny Peng, Claire Li, and Justin Franz are some of the more involved students, and we hope to further boost students involvement and awareness of the importance of this issue– Mrs. Forney’s dream is to see this be almost entirely student driven someday,” Ms. Halvorson said.

If more students felt the same way as Penny Peng, this dream is very possible.

“I decided to join the food wise group because I think it’s fun to compost and to see how well can we limit the food waste in our school,” said Penny.

To address goal three,  reducing food waste to landfill, all of the cafeteria’s food waste from lunch is picked up by Dick Gallien and taken to his farm, Winona Farm, primarily for hog and goat feed.

Hogs at Winona Farm.

The FOODWise group hopes to eventually start composting right here at Cotter.

“Having at least a small-scale composting site (maybe a little indoor vermicomposter- that’s a basically a bin of worms turning food into soil- or an outdoor tumbler or static pile) here at Cotter is like the pie in the sky– we hope to get to that point someday!” Ms. Halvorson said.

Indoor vermicomposter. Found on

The students involved are also psyched on the idea of an onsite composting site, especially Justin Franz.

“My favorite part about being in the FOODWise group is developing solutions as to how to effectively compost onsite, and I have provided the group with possible ways of making a feasible, efficient way of composting on Cotter’s campus,” Franz said.

The FOODWise program has already accomplished many of there goals in moving Cotter to become more sustainable. Besides focusing on food-waste, the group has also pushed for more consistent recycling, and less waste from the school in general.The goal of the group is to continue these efforts and get more students and teachers  involved,  to make Cotter an inspiring place of sustainability and green practices.

“Get FOODWise” mini guide:


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1 Comment

One Response to “Cotter gets FOODWise”

  1. Mary Forney on March 2nd, 2018 10:26 am

    Nice article. I hope that in the future you will see the Foodwise program at Cotter grow and expand. You will be able to say, “Hey, I was part of that”!
    Mrs. Forney

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