'Fruit Ninjas' are combatting food waste at Abington Senior High School

"There is a huge need for fresh produce and fresh fruit because everyone always donates canned items."

Katherine Scott Image
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
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The 'Fruit Ninjas' are making sure no piece of fruit goes to waste at one local high school.

ABINGTON, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A new, year-round program at Abington Senior High School is aimed at combatting food waste and helping the surrounding community.

It all started with an observation.

Last spring, Abington Senior High School English teacher Mariam Freeman noticed students throwing out the fruit required to come with their school meals.

"A lot of the students just said they didn't want them and didn't know where else to put them," Freeman explained.

The idea for Fruit Ninjas was born: a system for students to donate the fruit they choose not to eat to the Willow Grove Baptist Food Pantry.

"There is a huge need for fresh produce and fresh fruit because everyone always donates canned items," said Freeman.

"What we're doing really matters to our local community," Freeman added.

Freeman got the proper approvals and consulted with the health department before donations began in September.

"It was OK because it was just unrefrigerated fruit items like you would get at a supermarket," said Freeman.

Freeman formed a club: the Fruit Ninjas.

The Fruit Ninjas focus on marketing the program. They design posters and advertisements, making sure the messaging is clear and relatable. They made a series of 'I donated' stickers.

These measures are all to ensure visibility so students are aware of this opportunity.

"It makes the students donate it more and say, 'Oh my God, I'm making a big impact by donating this little fruit,'" said Fruit Ninjas president Tiffany Le.

"This is a constant service opportunity that you can just do whenever you want, how much or little you want," added club member Lily Devlin.

The Fruit Ninjas even analyze the collection box placement to try to figure out the best spots to maximize donations.

But Freeman needed help with collection, and she contacted her colleague Cait Pringle, a teacher in the STRIVE program.

STRIVE is a transition program for young adults 18-21 with complex needs.

"We actually do the legwork daily. So my students go out to the three cafeterias after lunch every day. We collect all the donated produce," said Pringle.

Their work provides vocational training. They also work on math skills as they weigh and graph their results.

The school is on target to surpass 1,000 pounds of donated fruit by winter break.

"I think it really teaches all of our students in this building that they can have an impact regardless of how small it is," Pringle said.