Windward Zero Waste School Hui Wins EPA's Food Recovery Challenge

February 10, 2022

2 Min Read
Windward Zero Waste School Hui
Windward Zero Waste School Hui

Kailua, Hawaii -The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the winners of the 2020 Food Recovery Challenge, a national program that recognizes outstanding accomplishments in food waste diversion. “We call it food waste recovery,” says Windward Zero Waste School Hui (WZWSH) coordinator, Mindy Jaffe.  We collect all food discarded in our cafeterias, but what sets us apart is that we process it on site.  Using composting and worm composting, we keep this valuable resource on campus.”  

The resulting rich compost and fertilizer is used for schoolyard soil restoration and establishing school gardens.  The surplus is sold to the community, with all proceeds returned to the schools. “In 2020, we raised nearly $50,000 from compost, worm castings, and worm sales,” says Jaffe, ”we truly turn garbage to gold.”  In 2021, Hui staff recovered 58 tons of food waste from five Kailua schools.

Resource Recovery is a labor intensive activity, requiring a hard-working, skilled, knowledgeable workforce, Jaffe explains, “This green job requires brains, brawn, and grit – we maintain seven Resource Recovery Specialists on our payroll to cover five campuses.”  The City Grant-In-Aid financing the WZWSH team was depleted due to a COVID-related policy providing free meals to all students, which doubled-to-tripled the daily waste load.  “We had to hire additional people and extend hours to handle the sudden tsunami of food waste.  We burned through our funds several months earlier than anticipated.”  By the end of December, there was nothing left.

Staff member Ron Brasher immediately launched a GoFundMe campaign.  “I love this job and want to keep it,” he explains, “this is important work environmentally but mostly because we teach students a new way to think about their actions in this world, how their choices make a difference. Everyone who understands this will support us.”  The many Resource Recovery employees over the past 17 years have spread Zero Waste concepts and practices far and wide.

When you can pay good people to do good work,” Jaffe says, “the return on investment is multiplied over and over.  We value our extraordinary people.  The first two EPA awards we won were for Volume of Waste Diverted, the third was for Innovation.  This 4th one should be for Resilience.  We won’t give up.”

To donate and learn more about the Windward Zero Waste School Hui, visit


Stay in the Know - Subscribe to Our Newsletters
Join a network of more than 90,000 waste and recycling industry professionals. Get the latest news and insights straight to your inbox. Free.

You May Also Like