Share Tables Help Schools Avoid Food Waste

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November 26, 2017

Share Tables are catching on in schools across the U.S.

share tableThe idea of a food exchange table in conjunction with school lunch isn't necessarily a new one, but it was officially endorsed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in June 2016, in the last few months of the Obama Administration. 

It's all about eliminating food waste. Some estimates are that up to 40 percent of edible is wasted and, at the same time, up to 13 million school-age children go hungry.

Part of the school lunch program rules state that food cannot be reused from day to day; this sometimes results in food going straight into the trash. From there, thrown away food can end up in landfills, where it can create methane, a greenhouse gas that can contribue to global warming.

Students are required to accept a certain amount and number of foods as part of the federal school lunch program. Another rule states that each children must be given fruit or vegetables. Not all students like the taste of the fruits or vegetables that they care given; however, they can also mix and match by swapping something from their plate for something on a Share Table. It can be food or drink, not hot or unsealed. Items that need to be kept cold, like milk or yogurt, are stored in chilly bins or in icepack-lined trays.

Stories of such tables are told around the country. Many schools have partnered with local food banks and other charities, which pick up any food left on the Share Table at the end of the day. In other schools, the students themselves can take home what's left.

Schools have reported a significant positive response to the initiative, from students and administrators and custodians.

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