As a middle school student, Angelina Xu, 17, recognized a paradox in her school system: hundreds of pounds of compostable and donatable food waste was being thrown away each month while many students were dealing with food insecurity. So, in 2018, Xu started the first food recovery and composting program for school cafeterias in her county, which collected and sent unopened food to school-based food banks and sent cafeteria food waste to composting facilities. In 2021, she expanded the one-school program into a youth-led nonprofit called Compostology that has since grown into a coalition of 35,000 students, administrators, and officials who manage 24 composting and food recovery programs at K-12 schools across the state of Maryland.
In 2021, Compostology received a Food Waste Warriors grant from the World Wildlife Fund to expand its programs. In order to standardize and institutionalize programs for schools across Maryland, in 2023 Compostology led a school students’ campaign that helped pass SB 124, a state bill that allocated $1.25 million in grant funding for K-12 schools throughout the state to start their own composting and food recovery programs. Compostology is now working on the rollout of the grant program to make environmental stewardship accessible to schools and students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.