Instead of tossing leftovers school cafeteria turn extra food into take-home meals for hungry kids

March 16th, 2020

School lunches have been redesigned to present as healthier. But the portion sizes usually leave kids hungry.

In some families, that hunger carries over through to the next day when students can replenish their bodies by eating breakfast back at school, skipping dinner at home because there wasn’t any.

Food insecurity is a huge problem in the United States, surprisingly. Numerous schools across the country adopted the concept of “share tables” that prevents food from being haphazardly tossed in the garbage instead of being responsibly consumed by hungry kids who need more nourishment than what the limited school lunch gives them. The shared tables also reduce waste.

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Students are able to drop off any unopened food and drink at the share table. Anyone else who is still hungry or thirsty can pop by the table and pick up something they see that will help fill them up.

Then at the end of the lunch period when there are more hungry students, the leftover food is transported and donated to a local food bank and charity. One school has taken this concept a step farther and it’s warming hearts and filling up bellies.

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Elkhart Community Schools in Indiana have teamed up with a South Bend food rescue program called Cultivate to repurpose lunchroom leftovers. With the pilot program, all leftover food is repackaged into frozen meals that are sent home in backpacks to kids identified by school officials as needed food assistance on the weekend.

Cultivate’s Jim Conklin said the organization usually obtains unused food from catering companies and large food service businesses.

“You don’t always think of a school.”

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Almost two dozen elementary students benefitted from the pilot program at Woodland Elementary. They toted home eight frozen meals every Friday year-round.

“We take well-prepared food, combine it with other food and make individual frozen meals out of it.”

Natalie Bickel, who works in student services at the district, said deciding to participate in the pilot program was a no-brainer.

“At Elkhart Community Schools, we were wasting a lot of food. There wasn’t anything to do with the food. So they came to the school three times a week and rescued the food.”

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Melissa Ramey with the local Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Academy said she was surprised there were students going hungry on weekends. She knew this program would be perfect to help resolve that issue.

“It was heartbreaking to hear that children go home on the weekends and that they don’t have anything to eat.”

Food insecurity actually is more widespread than one might think. It’s defined as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of a lack of money and other resources.

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Facebook/Cultivate Food Rescue Source: Facebook/Cultivate Food Rescue

In 2014, 17.4 million U.S. households were food insecure at some time during the year, according to Healthy People.

Food insecurity does not necessarily cause hunger, but hungering is a possible outcome of food insecurity. Food insecurity also may be temporary, short-term or long-term. For ways you can help fight food insecurity, check with your local food bank.

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Source: Scary Mommy