Monroe County and North Lawrence Schools Tackle School Food Waste
NL schools donating food to avoid waste
by Roger Moon
BEDFORD — Food waste in the United States totals billions of pounds each year. In 2010, the number of pounds was 133 billion, according to research conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture.Communities across the country have responded by finding ways to reduce that number.
Excess food from the kitchens in the North Lawrence Community Schools system are being donated to the local Becky’s Place shelter for women and children in an effort to keep from throwing the food away.
“There aren’t a lot of leftovers, but we sure don’t want to throw any of it away,” said Stacie Green, NLCS food services director. She said excess food — items that never left the kitchen for the lunchroom — often is sent to the shelter, a practice that Green said has been in place at least a couple of years.She said the school’s kitchens have an “offer versus serve” policy, which means a student can decline having a particular item placed on his tray. That food item then qualifies to be donated.
Green said the donations are made “anytime we have 10 servings or more (in excess).”
The food is eagerly received by Becky’s Place. "We are very grateful that they give that to us. It helps a lot,” said Corrina Hayes, Becky’s Place director. She said donations are received from North Lawrence kitchens two or three times a week and more often during the summer meal program. “We get a lot of food that’s left over and that helps out tremendously. Obviously, we are nonprofit. It helps our food budget a lot,” Hayes said.
MCCSC, North Lawrence schools pitching in to reduce food waste
Contributions by Mary Keck
In Monroe County, the Hoosier Hills Food Bank stops by a school in Monroe County Community School Corp. at least once a day to pick up leftover food. In 2015, MCCSC donated 17,327 pounds of prepared food to HHFB.
“If we prepared it, as long as we’re the only ones that handled it, if we can reuse it, we reuse it,” said Hattie Johnson, food service director for MCCSC, in a phone interview.
In addition to donations of prepared food, some elementary schools use a “shared table.” If a student purchases a carton of milk or a wrapped piece of fruit, they can donate on an individual basis to the shared table, where another student can have the food item.
According to Johnson, the only foods that must be thrown away are those that might be handled by someone other than food service employees. For example, the tomatoes on the salad bar might have to be tossed at the end of the day even though tongs have been made available.
“If it’s getting toward the end of the lunch, (staff) are not going to restock it. Once the public has accessed it, leftover waste can’t be served up to the public again,” she said.
Sanitation is an important issue, Johnson notes. Students often wonder why the district wraps up fruit or serves apples with tongs. If they don’t, that food can’t be reused unless school officials are certain it hasn’t been handled.
Herald-Times reporter Mary Keck contributed to this story.