School Wellness Campaign: Dufief Elementary School

Throughout 2019-2020, Food Council staff, Council Members, and partners will be visiting Montgomery County Public Schools that have implemented exemplary wellness initiatives that encourage students to make healthier, more conscientious choices. We are hopeful that sharing and celebrating these wonderful accomplishments will motivate schools throughout the County to adopt similar wellness programs and promote a celebration of  existing and evolving school wellness initiatives.

At the end of the fifth grade lunch period at Dufief Elementary School, students in the cafeteria are giggling with friends, bringing their empty lunch boxes over to the class cart, and sorting their trash. As each student cleans up their space, they bring their waste– milk cartons, empty plastic fruit cups, banana peels–to the collection area in the center of the room. Students place the recyclables into the recycling bin, trash into the trash bin, and food scraps into a small bucket. Most children determine the proper receptacle with ease; they’ve been doing this for several months.

The composting program at Dufief began with a one-week pilot in November of 2018. A Dufief student was elected as the Junior Mayor of Gaithersburg, and proposed a reintroduction of compost collection in the school in the Spring of 2019 as a component of his platform. The program restarted with a waste audit, and PTA funding supported a contract with The Compost Crew for weekly collection throughout the 2019-2020 school year.

Dufief Elementary School is one of only a handful of Montgomery County Public Schools that has implemented an in-school composting program. Students are learning about and reducing their environmental impact right in the cafeteria, as food scraps are collected at the end of every lunch period in three small buckets, which are then dumped into two locked 12 gallon bins that live in the trash room. The Compost Crew collects the food scraps on a weekly basis, which often weigh more than 75 lbs by the time of pick-up.

Principal Gregg Baron shared that this initiative has had a trickle effect for many of the families at the school, who are now looking into curbside compost collection services that they can use at home. It has bolstered Dufief’s status as a Maryland Green School, and complemented the ongoing green efforts related to reduced energy use and recycling throughout the school.

Thank you, Dufief, for leading the way to a more sustainable Montgomery County food system and encouraging our youngest community members to have an increased awareness of their individual environmental impact. We are inspired to continue working with our partners and County leaders to support the expansion and implementation of similar composting and wellness programs at schools, institutions, and businesses throughout the County.