Small Grant Program Impact: 12/2/16
Compost initiative at Weld County School District 6
Nutrition Services Department: Central Production Kitchen at the Service Center
In just two months, 434 gallons of food scraps that in the past were headed to the trash is now headed to school gardens and classrooms.
A $2,400 West Greeley Conservation District grant enabled the Weld County School District 6 Central Production Kitchen to buy five composters and a storage tote.
The program is a lesson in environmental stewardship, which will help the kitchen meet its goals of productive waste management. The kitchen staff is using the composting as a teaching opportunity, developing curricula about natural systems. The lessons learned will guide the production kitchen members as they launches the next phase: to use an industrial or commercial system and move into more than 30 school sites.
Before the composters arrived in October, District 6 contacted a local tree-trimming company that delivered and donated wood chips for the composting process. The chips are stored in empty 55-gallon barrels once filled with diced tomatoes.
The tumblers are numbered one through five. Each week a tumbler is loaded from Monday through Friday with an average of 70-80 gallons of food scraps, and balanced with an equal amount of wood chips.
The first tumbler was loaded with materials on Oct. 10 and finished compost was unloaded five weeks later. The staff screen sifted and stored the compost. Then, the tumbler was rinsed and reloaded. The district tracks the total amount of finished composted product that is produced from a full, 5-week cycle.
The compost tea — excess moisture released from the tumblers — is collected in 5-gallon buckets, diluted, and used as liquid fertilizer for indoor and outdoor plants at District 6 Nutrition Services.
The composters are monitored and turned daily during the workweek. When outside temperatures dropped consistently below 40 degrees F in mid December, District 6 suspended the program. The composting process slowed and would eventually stop as temperatures dropped.
Because the staff is invested in the program minimal training was required and collection of materials easy.