The first state guidelines or memo Food Rescue found on the subject of Share Tables in schools were written In Michigan in September of 2012, but noted TCS foods, or Temperature Controlled for Safety would be "considered", but there were very few guidelines. In June of 2015, Indiana became the first state to develop full guidelines, not only for Share Tables, but for food donations to food pantries even for TCS food items, and even if schools did not choose to implement a share table. These guidelines were written by the State Department of Health and State Department of Education. They were very specific to unopened and unpeeled food items from the trays of students that were served that they did not wish to eat for various reasons. Over 400 Indiana schools now either implement share tables or donate unopened food items from the trays of students that they choose not to eat to food pantries. Some of the over 400 schools do both Share Tables and food pantry donations that are left over from Share Table items completely encouraged by the USDA and EPA.
After Vermont followed Indiana, the USDA wrote formal guidelines that can be seen in chapter 5 of the History of School Food Waste Policy story in June of 2016. The race was on for states to match those guidelines, if not adopt them. But the USDA added a substantial twist to the guidelines, putting states who resist the guidelines in a difficult position. The USDA declared these food items safe to be re-served through the lunch line a second time, if the guidelines are followed, AND have the food be counted toward a reimbursable meal within the National School Lunch Program. So to be clear, if your state resists the USDA guidelines, they are basically saying that that the very food that the USDA says is fit to be re-served to paying student "customers" is unfit to be given to children and families in need via food pantries. Food Rescue doesn't think this makes any sense at all, and we teach our students to just share the info on federal laws and guidelines with their school districts and local health departments, and lead the #FoodIsNotTrash movement. Our advocacy has led to many states adopting guidelines that match the USDA guidelines.
Food Rescue does not advocate Share Tables over rescuing food and donating it to food pantries. We simply advocate states recognize the USDA guidelines, and choose share tables, K-12 Food Rescue policies, or both, including the donation of TCS foods that have guidelines written to insure donations are safe within reason.
To learn more about school food donations, visit Food Rescue's Get Started Page.
To learn more about our amazing student leaders, visit our State Student Leader Page.
To learn more about how we engage students, check out our S.L.E.I. program.