Why More Schools Should Implement This Genius 'Share Table' Initiative

The practice can help to tackle hunger and food waste at the same time.

As much as you may want them to, some kids just don't eat their fruit or drink their milk during lunchtime at school. Instead, much of the food they don't eat — whether it's a bag of chips or a box of raisins — ends up in the trash. But some schools are working to change that.  

Elementary schools across the U.S. are implementing "share tables" to reduce waste, give kids from low-income families more to eat, and help other families in need. 

On a designated share table, students drop off unwanted food and drinks from their lunch for other students to take. If a student doesn't have enough food to eat for lunch, he or she can pick up an item from the sharing table for free. 

The items left on the share table must be unopened or unwrapped, but are typically things like beverages such as milk or juice, snacks such as chips, crackers, cheese sticks, or yogurt, and fruits and vegetables that are either wrapped or have an inedible peel such as oranges or bananas.

The share tables are especially useful because the federal school lunch program requires students to take a certain amount of food items each time they get lunch, even if they don't actually want the food. Because there is only one standard serving size for the whole school, some kids in lower grades may find that it's too much food to finish while older kids may not have enough. Schools with a share table make it easy for students to give the food to others instead of throwing it away.

If there's any leftover food on the share table at the end of the day, many schools give it to needy student families to take home or donate it to a local church, charity, or food bank. This awesome, relatively new initiative is backed by the United States Department of Agriculture. Considering nearly 13 million children in the U.S. are facing hunger each day and the country currently wastes about 40 percent of its food supply, it's not hard to see why. 

The share table initiative helps to ensure that no student goes hungry at school and helps to minimize waste in the cafeteria. It also helps to teach kids about the importance of giving, sharing, and being more conscious of food waste. 

Interested in starting a share table at a school near you? Speak with the school's administrators or contact food recycling programs like Food Rescue. In addition, there are a lot of ways you can help hungry kids at schools. Ask your child's teacher if you can send snacks to school for the children who don't bring them every day, or find out which of your local schools have kids with overdue lunch accounts and pay them off. These are simple things you can do to make a big difference for families in your community. 


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