F2F Header Block
Winter 2012
In This Issue
Spotlight on Tenino
* F2F Superhero
* Creative Solutions
* Learning Life Skills
Student Leaders
What's in Your Trash?
Contact Information
As of January 5, 2012 


Participating Schools

29 Click to see Map


Participating Students



Total solid waste diverted from landfill

92 tons per year


Average lunchroom recycling rate



Total number of spork kits eliminated

665,500 per year

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Waste Free Lunch Tips 

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Greetings !  
Welcome to the first Thurston County Food to Flowers e-newsletter! Food to Flowers (F2F) is a school composting, recycling, and waste prevention program serving Thurston County schools.  These schools are diverting an average of 86% of their lunchroom waste from the landfill.  By participating in F2F, they reduce their impact on the environment, teach their students valuable lessons, and save money!


Please help spread the word about Food to Flowers by forwarding this newsletter to other interested folks at your school, in your school district, and in your community.

Spotlight on Tenino School District 

First K-12 district in Thurston County with all schools participating in Food to Flowers!


Pizza crusts, apple cores, and napkins are no longer going into the garbage at any of the schools in the Tenino School District.  In September of 2010, Parkside Elementary launched their Food to Flowers program followed in November, 2010 by Tenino Elementary and Tenino Middle School.  A year later, Tenino High School joined the program and today every one of Tenino's 1,167 students are participating in program.


This makes the Tenino School District the first K-12 school district in Thurston County to have all of their schools participating in Food to Flowers.  They're saving money, teaching their students about how they can make a positive impact on the world, and helping the environment.


  Tenino All Schools Graph
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Teresa Stephens
 Food Service Visionary!


Teresa Stephens, the Food Service Director for the Tenino School District, is a waste prevention superhero.  She saw the impact that Food to Flowers could have on Tenino students, she saw the cost savings for her district, and she took action.


Teresa made many innovative changes while implementing the Food to Flowers program.  These changes created less waste, made the program work better, and saved the District money.  Some of these changes include:

  • Eliminating the use of spork kits, keeping 145,000 straws and plastic bags out of the landfill each year.
  • Purchasing more food items in bulk.
  • Eliminating the use of single-serve packets for catsup, mustard, and other condiments.
  • Serving food directly onto lunch trays instead of in disposable bowls and cups.
  • Changing the school menu to feature more foods students were eating based on how much food waste is collected each day for composting.

Teresa's reasons for supporting the Food to Flowers program go beyond the savings the District is realizing in purchasing and garbage collection costs.  She is also motivated by what she sees students learning through their participation in the program. 


"We have a student at the elementary school that actually wrote to President Obama about how well we are doing with recycling and composting at her school,"  Teresa said.  "(The student) explained what the impact could be if we got restaurants to do more recycling. Reading that showed me that we are doing much more than recycling food; we are teaching the kids."  


Click here to read the letter to President Obama. 


Creative Solutions

Condiment Caddies 

Kaleb Harris and Trinity Tafoya
show off the new condiment caddies!

Parkside and Tenino Elementary school students eat in their classrooms.  When these schools joined the Food to Flowers program, they switched from using condiment packets to bulk condiment dispensers.  To make this switch without slowing down the lunch line and creating a big mess, they needed to find a way to get the bulk dispensers into each classroom and back to the kitchen each day.  To solve this problem, Teresa Stephens, the District's Food Services Director, created portable Condiment Caddies for each classroom.


How it works: When teachers bring the students through the lunch line, they pick up a caddie filled with catsup, mustard, and other condiment bottles.  After lunch, the caddie is dropped off at the sort line when students dump their trays.  


Ta-da! Less waste and lower costs!


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Food to Flowers at Tenino High

Special Needs Students Learn Skills and Help their School


"It is so important for the kids to realize that they can make an impact on what is going on, not just in the classroom but outside of our classroom and the school as a whole, and in the community."


Jill Statler

Life Skills Teacher

Tenino High School


Tenino High School kicked off their Food to Flowers program in November, 2011. They went from throwing everything in the trash, to recycling and composting throughout the school. The Leadership Class did a great job promoting the program and the entire school community was supportive.  But even with a lot of initial support, the program needs daily attention.


Life Skills students Ashley Pitman and

 Andres Farrias-Courts moniter the sort line during lunch.


That's where the Life Skills class comes in. The Life Skills class is for students with significant physical and mental challenges between the ages of 12 and 21.  In this class, they learn self-care, every day skills such as telling time, counting money, cooking, and job skills. This year, the class was looking for new vocational opportunities for their students.


Tenino High School Principal Brad Ramey says the school is using the Food to Flowers program to meet an important need.  By federal law the school needs to provide a youth transitions program to their Life Skills students that helps them develop job skills.  "These students need to learn critical skills to be full participants in society after they leave school," Principal Ramey said.   


The Life Skills students are participating in Food to Flowers by collecting recycling from classrooms and hallways each day. During lunch, they monitor the sort lines, making sure their peers put everything in the correct bins.  The reaction of the Life Skills students has been overwhelming positive.  Jill Statler, the Life Skills teacher, said, "It's all done on a voluntary basis and all of the kids are volunteering.  We now have to have a schedule of who's recycling when and they are so excited to do it."   


Through the Food to Flowers program students are learning responsibility, what it means to be a good employee, and how to keep track of the hours they work on the job.  


"(The students) feel they are important and participating in the school community, " Statler said.  "They're socializing with their peers and they just have that sense of being needed and wanted.  It is so important for the kids to realize that they can make an impact on what is going on, not just in the classroom but outside of our classroom and the school as a whole, and in the community.  They go home and they talk to their families about it and it's just so important for them to have something to share."


Pleasant Glade Elementary

Student Leaders Make a Difference


The Leadership Team at Pleasant Glade Elementary in the North Thurston School District is an awesome group of 5th and 6th graders who work on projects to improve their school. One of the things they help with is the Food to Flowers composting and recycling program.  Leadership Team Students help younger students learn how to sort their lunches and make sure all students put items in the right bins. If a student is not sure where something goes, no problem!  A Leadership Student is there to help.


The Leadership Team's hard work is making a difference.  With their help, the school now composts more than 5 tons of food each year! All of this food used to go to the landfill.  The team's efforts are also helping to save the school money on their garbage bill.


The Leadership Team is now so popular that the Leadership teacher has started a Junior Leadership Team for 3rd and 4th graders.  When asked why they are part of the Leadership Team, a common answer is "It's fun! And it feels good to help the younger kids."


Pleasant Glade Leadership
Leadership team member Jade Tersiev helps kindergartener Hannah Dunsmoor, while Alondra Cisneros-Morales and Jazmin Arnold-McClanahan watch the bins.


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What's in Your Trash?

Have you ever wondered how much of what your school sends to the landfill could be recycled or composted?  One way to find out is to do a waste sort.

In the video below, Thurston County Food to Flowers teams up with Lydia Hawk Elementary's Green Team.  The results were astounding, and a little bit gross!

Green Team to the Extreme!
Green Team to the Extreme!
Contact Peter Guttchen at guttchp@co.thurston.wa.us
to set up a waste sort at your school.




For more information contact:

Peter Guttchen

Carrie Ziegler

For schools in Olympia contact:

Spencer Orman

Bonnie Meyer