A Kitchener high school is taking a unique program beyond classroom walls – with the goal to reduce food waste while feeding the community.

The green industries program at Eastwood Collegiate Institute is done using a closed loop hot compost.

“The closed loop compost program is a way to use the waste produced in this building here – so food waste as well as chicken waste – and use it to produce soil that can then be used in our garden program here to grow some really healthy, nutritious food for our community,” said Adam Kasper, a teacher at Eastwood Collegiate.

The school’s chickens are at the heart of the program.

“The fecal matter they produce is eventually going to be turned into fertilizer so we can grow more plants. And any waste we get out of the school's food program goes directly to the chickens so they can eat it,” said Kyris Atkinson, a student.

A hot compost is used by bringing together organic materials in a large enough pile to retain heat.

It’s a method that breaks materials down faster – although it is higher maintenance. It’s not too much to handle for the thirty students that are a part of this year’s course. The students use the rich soil to grow food for the community.

“And then they're going to sell that here at this market starting in the middle of July. So every two weeks we'll have that hosting here and we'll have lots of food for the community,” said Kasper.

LESSONS LEARNED

Important lessons have sprouted from the garden as well.

“I learned how to water plants, how to manage the chickens,” said student Owen Swift.

It even encouraged students like Swift to continue the work outside of school.

“I think I'm going to try and grow my own garden, maybe take care of my own chickens,” Swift said.

Students said it’s important to care for the community and beyond.

“I am so happy that I'm making such a great change not just in my community but eventually the world,” said student Kameron Van Koughnett.

The program is expected to have over 70 students next year.

“I have definitely learned a lot about teamwork and how hard it is to do things by yourself,” said Van Koughnett.

With the garden growing, it seems the interest in being green is growing too.

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP AWARD

Earlier this year, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) recognized Eastwood Collegiate for their closed loop compost program, with the Tim Walker Memorial Award.

“The garden will further address food insecurity through a planned expansion, which will directly and positively impact school community members,” the school board said.

Each year, the WRDSB recognizes schools for their commitment and contribution to education and environmental initiatives.