This story originally appeared at American Web Media by Robert Winthrop.
Too much food is wasted in school cafeterias. What if that waste could assist children in need? Turns out, there’s a brilliant solution to help both sides, reducing waste and putting food in the mouths of children who might need some free meal items. Some schools are adopting what is known as a “share table” or “share bin.”
These bins allow students to leave behind items from their lunch boxes for another student to grab.
According to the Texas Student Fairness In Feeding Act signed into law in late 2017, school districts are implementing this solution and seeing success with this simple and easy idea.
Jenny Arrendondo, a child nutrition senior executive director for the city’s school system noted: “Food insecurity is a major issue. It is a huge problem within our district, so a bill like this that has passed, our students are really the ones that are going to benefit from it.”
Interestingly, before the bill was passed, there were laws that didn’t allow districts to give any unwanted lunch food to students and, according to federal law, cafeterias couldn’t serve food again from the previous day.
As a result, there was a lot of food going to waste.
Kittiya Johnson, principal at Cody Elementary in San Antonio, Texas, observed, “It was hard because kids would as, ‘Do you mind if I can have this for my friends?’ And many times we’d have to tell them no.”
Johnson added: “We did see quite a bit of waste. The kids would comment on it. ‘Well, are we just gonna throw it away?’ And also the teachers would make those comments.”
Now, Texas schools can give any unused non-perishable items to kids who need it and create food banks and other programs to help feed hungry students.
Schools in Michigan have also implemented this idea and it’s been met with great success.
Dan Gorman, Food Service Director for Montague Area Schools, explained, “When we started to have the food that students didn’t want, we’d have a situation where other students would want it.”
He continued: “I think in our communities and most communities in West Michigan that there are some of those families, and so being able to help and supplement those families, that’s a good thing.”
Gorman went on to say that while they’re seeking other ways to reduce waste, he found that the share table initiative was positive overall. Gorman states, “The other part of it is that some kids were still a little hungry and so they might want a little bit more so we wanted to provide a place that they can go with no stigma and just grab something extra to have for lunch or breakfast.”
One mom shared that taking a little time to pack some extra food in her daughter’s lunch specifically for the shared bin is rewarding. She explained, “So many kids are faced with hunger… to know that they know when they go to school, even if they don’t have a lunch, they’ll still have food — makes my heart happy to know that.”