In most cases, when food or other leftover materials get thrown away in the trash, we feel that was the inevitable outcome. Despite its condition, it’s still a valuable resource. Instead of disposing of what would seem as garbage, composting these materials can serve as great alternative – an activity that at times might not be top-of-mind.

Portia Matthews, educator at Bob Hope Elementary, was eager to preserve these remnants and educate her students on how composting produces nutrient-rich soil that helps divert organic waste from reaching the landfills and improves plant growth and soil health. Thanks to Power of the Dollar® members, she was awarded a $1,000 grant in December 2022 for her “Coach’s Compost Compadres” project, and then turned her vision into a reality by purchasing composting bins for her students!

composting bin and garden

Composting bins and garden

“The idea behind the project was if we can support both programs, the compost program and the campus garden, that in light exposes our kiddos to gardening, to farming, the sustainability goals of no hunger,” said Matthews. “Showing our kids how you can take something so interesting and growing and raising items that you can then turn around and sell a little if you needed to or support your own family … that to me is very meaningful!”

Positioned outside next to the school’s butterfly gardens – gardens which are managed by both Matthews and Cynthia Cuellar, another 2022-2023 education grant winner – these plastic compost bins facilitate the efficient and eco-friendly recycling of organic matter through a natural decomposition process. Each week, students weigh the compost to determine how much food is being recycled and then document it in their journals. Providing a source of inspiration the students can take with them in their lives outside of the school, composting is a method that can truly create long-term sustainability!

“Exposing them to that at a very young age and seeing that possibly translate to adulthood across maybe even different focus points in their life, I just think it’s just magical,” she said. “There’s this awareness like, hey, this food is valuable! We are taking this food that is not desirable at the time and we’re turning that into something so beneficial for the campus!”

Looking to help local schools, invest in your community, and support educators like Portia Matthews? Make a tangible, positive impact by joining the collective giving of our Power of the Dollar® membership. Learn more at, and together, we can create pathways that lead to better lives and stronger communities.