Picture a girl on the edge of her seat, she’s holding a calculator, she’s adding numbers. Her eyes are getting bigger and bigger. Why is addition so exciting? I know why. It’s because the number on the calculator at the end is 219. Two hundred and nineteen pounds of food scraps that have been frozen and brought to school, delivered to the farmers market, or dumped in a community composting bin by Columbia Secondary School families.
I was in awe when I looked at the list on the freezer the morning that the competition ended. My two pages of log sheets were packed with names and recordings. A girl had left a bag of frozen scraps outside the door of the classroom, and I brought it inside to the giant freezer where I found that, despite the fact the freezer was the size of a twin sized bed, there was simply no more room. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to encounter a problem.
I consulted with the teacher who resided over the room, and she admitted to snatching compost bins from the cafeteria, filling them to the brim with frozen scraps from the crammed freezer to make room for more, then putting the bins out with the rest to be picked up by the city. We agreed, this was a much better solution than trying to haul wagon-loads of food scraps up the hill and down Broadway 10 blocks to the farmers market.
The morning of the raffle, I cut out a few hundred almost identical squares of copy paper, and assigned each composter a number. I wrote each person’s number on however many tickets was equivalent to the number of pounds of scraps they contributed, and put them all into the bowl.
The girl who won did not bring in the most scraps, but she was a joy to meet and to give the prize to, I just remember thinking that she was so sweet and surprised when I pulled her out of class to tell her the new. After making sure she didn’t have any allergies, I compiled a collection of goodies from the farmers market. I also gave a small bag to the girl that brought in the most (26 pounds!).
There will, of course, be more composting contests at CSS. How could there not be after such a successful one. We’re even putting ourselves on the map: we’ve had the offer of prizes like pizza parties from people who work in the mayor’s office and who are trying to promote sustainability in schools.
The scraps left in the freezer will be made into compost for the Columbia Secondary School Community Garden in the spring. They will be dispersed in the soil as nutrients to feed the vegetables in the garden which will wind up in our kitchens, and will once again become scraps in freezers.