Mindful Waste was born on a worm farm in the Chicago suburbs, and raised in school cafeterias.

Jennifer, a zoologist and educator, was pursuing a masters in conservation biology when she honed in on the school cafeteria as a major source of food waste. She timed cafeteria lines and conducted waste audits to quantify the problem – and once she saw the numbers, she knew she had to act. A scientist and doer at heart, she rolled up her sleeves and got down to work.

Meanwhile, a few miles away, Renee, a writer and educator, was perplexed by the existence of two waste cans in her sons’ cafeteria. One said “recycling” in barely visible letters, but the cans were used interchangeably. Even worse, they were full of food – not just sandwich crusts, but whole apples and bananas. She began observing and sorting to determine the root cause of the problem.

Fate intervened, and Renee was assigned to cover a story about a hop and worm farm at Jennifer’s family brewery. (That’s how most people meet, right?) Fast friends and like-minded educators, they began planning ways to teach kids to value food as a resource. They knew they couldn’t stop there, though: if food waste was happening in their children’s cafeterias, it was happening everywhere. They had to work to normalize composting as a practical solution for all.

Here’s what motivates us:

Our society turns a blind eye to the food waste that’s created at every point in the food supply chain. Meanwhile, 1 in 7 Americans is food insecure, and food waste is widely acknowledged as the third largest contributor to climate change. It’s a disconnect we have to correct.

Determined to create practical, scalable solutions, the duo persevered. Along the way, they became professional meeting attendees, combed through waste in school cafeterias, hauled tens of thousands of pounds of recovered food and food scraps (not at the same time, we promise), and grew an army of composting worms – all in the name of creating Mindful Waste’s educational programs. It’s time for a food waste revolution…will you join us?