In 2015, Camp Wawenock took on the problem of food waste. The camp’s Green Team of camp staff and volunteers, set up with Green Camps Green Team guidance, launched the Clean Plate Club Challenge to encourage campers to reduce food waste.
Every day at breakfast and dinner, campers sat together at the same tables to eat family-style. The challenge was set to see which tables could achieve the most “clean plates” Sunday through Wednesday. Campers were encouraged to finish their individual plates of food, not including serving bowls and trays. (The camp wanted to avoid encouraging overeating, and reuse leftovers for other meals.) At the end of each meal, camp staff recognized Clean Plate Club tables by marking them up on a poster in the dining hall.
About 30% of our food supply is wasted – that’s about $162 billion worth of food! (Source: USDA)
On Wednesdays after dinner, the Green Team leader would tally up the numbers and announce a winning table, which was the one with the most Clean Plate Club meals. That table was rewarded with a vase of fresh daisies to enjoy as their table centerpiece for the rest of the week.
Food waste and composting, which the camp also implemented, became topics of conversation at tables every week. Defining what a clean plate meant, however, became somewhat of a challenge early on. For some, it meant eating everything on the plate; for others, it meant picking out “gross” mushrooms from a casserole. Camp staff encouraged campers to take only what they knew they would eat and, if they weren’t sure they’d like something, to try only a little bit first.
Camp Wawenock found this initiative to be an effective way to teach young people about how their choices affect the earth – that they can control the waste they produce. It successfully created a dialogue about waste in the dining hall, which was supplemented by facts and figures that the Green Team would share during meals.