Clark County Green Schools recently visited Lincoln Elementary School for the launch of their new share table, which collects students' uneaten food and redistributes it to those in need.
A share table is a designated location where students can place their unwanted leftover food items. Food that can be placed on the share table includes unopened pre-packaged products and uneaten whole fruits and vegetables that are served by the school - no food items from home are allowed. Some examples of acceptable items are granola bars, packaged baby carrots, milk cartons, string cheese, bananas, and apples. Food that needs to stay cold, like milk, must immediately be placed on ice or stored in a cooler. Whole fruit with edible peels, like apples and pears, must be rewashed before they can be served again.
Vancouver Public Schools works with the Family-Community Resource Center at Lincoln Elementary to collect the food from the share table and provide it to families in need. This is an impactful way to reduce the amount of food wasted in school cafeterias while benefiting the community at the same time. A case study of Puesta del Sol Elementary in Bellevue School District found that the school was able to save approximately 100 pounds per week of fresh food and donate it to their local food bank - that's over 3,500 pounds per year!
During our visit, we watched as curious students inspected the share table and quickly picked up on how to use it. By the end of lunch, the share table bins were nearly filled to the brim with perfectly good milk cartons, pears, and apples that otherwise would have been thrown away or composted, respectively. It is important to note that composting food scraps is still preferable to sending them to the landfill, yet share tables are an even better option in that they feed hungry people and prevent waste altogether. Collaboration has been crucial to this project's success. A supportive team consisting of the district's nutrition services, the SNAP-Ed nutrition program, Lincoln Elementary staff, the school's resource center, and Clark County Green Schools worked together to ensure the smooth implementation of Lincoln's first ever share table. In the future, Vancouver Public Schools hopes to roll out share tables at more schools to reduce the amount of quality food that is wasted.
If you are interested in learning more about share tables and how to implement one in your school cafeteria, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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