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Adults with Special Needs Learn to Reduce Food Waste

Oceanside, CA – By learning how to compost their kitchen waste, residents of TERI’s McNealy House, a residential home in Oceanside for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, has reduced the amount of organic waste it sends to the landfill, and the resulting carbon emissions.

Solana Center for Environmental Innovation developed a successful composting program that diverts food scrap from the landfill, taught composting skills and engaged TERI clients in healthy, physical activities. With financial support provided by the City of Oceanside, TERI, and the Oceanside Charitable Foundation, Solana Center’s composting experts, developed a composting program for the residents and staff at McNealy House and also involved day-use clients from the Learning Academy.

McNealy House is a home for six men with developmental disabilities and a house manager. Residents help with meal preparation and clean-up in the home's kitchen. Solana Center’s waste audit revealed that twice as much food scrap was generated from meal preparation and plate scrapings than was expected.

“I didn’t realize how much we actually wasted…CRAZY…we do toss so much more than I ever realized.”– McNealy House manager

Working with TERI staff, Solana Center educators determined that combining the bokashi in-vessel fermentation technique with traditional composting would be the best solution for this environment. 

TERI staff from both McNealy House and the Learning Academy were impressed with and enjoyed the composting program. Staff believe it will be beneficial for their clients’ development, as well as provide opportunities for more interaction with the outdoors. One McNealy House resident has embraced the program so much that he has become the house Composting Ambassador. By composting all food scrap, McNealy House is able to realize the following results:

  • McNealy House generates an average of 39.2 pounds/week of pre- and post-consumer food scrap, which is all now being composted onsite.
  • The overall diversion rate increased from 6% to 43% by weight. That is, now 43% of all waste generated is kept from the landfill, through composting, recycling, and yard trimming pickup.
  • Organic material creates significant methane when disposed in landfills. At the current food scrap composting rate, the waste from McNealy House will release less greenhouse gases each year – 0.6 MT CO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent).

“We look forward to seeing the composting program at McNealy House blossom,” said Jessica Toth, Solana Center’s Executive Director.

For further information about this project, please contact Diane Hazard, Solana Center's Director of Education, at