Be inspired by Shawn’s a story of how he started a Share Table at Hoover Elementary in Livonia Michigan through an Eco Schools USA project. #FoodIsNotTrash
By Danny Freiband
Food Rescue Michigan State Director of Student Leadership
Hi everyone! My name is Danny, and here’s my story: I hope it can help those trying to start a program in their own school, whether they’re part way through the process (like me) or unsure where to start.
I’m sure I felt horrified when I learned how much food my school was throwing away, but more than that I felt surprised--why would they throw away perfectly good food when so many people are hungry? A friend had brought the issue to my attention after seeing the cafeteria staff throw away literally buckets full of food. “Couldn’t it go to some better use?” he wondered.
I asked around and discovered that the answer was, essentially, “no”; the way food was served at my school (“buffet style”, where students help themselves), it couldn’t be donated. So I gave up on trying to solve the problem for a while. Several months later, with the issue still nagging at my brain, I suddenly remembered the 31 other schools in my district who undoubtedly also threw out their leftovers. Sure enough, all of those schools’ food was completely able to be donated.
I decided I would spend a while researching the issue. Those of you reading this story have most likely heard of K-12 Food Rescue, an invaluable resource where much of the information you need to know about school food waste is consolidated in an easy-to-access way for you. Take advantage of it! You’ll want to be well-versed in school food donation policy and history when you start approaching people.
Shortly after doing my research, I took the advice of John Williamson (Executive Director of K-12 Food Rescue) and started a student group. I had been reluctant to do so, thinking “I can do this by myself”; let me say that anyone who could start a food rescue program by themselves could do it ten times more easily and effectively with a team to back them up. My team is called Ann Arbor Students for Saving Food (A2S2F) and I owe them full credit for all of our success so far.
It was then a simple matter of solidifying our goals and reaching out to the right people. I had learned from John that “tray-to-trash” waste (unopened, unpeeled, uneaten items from students’ trays) was a far better place to start than the “back-of-the-house” prepared food I had been focused on before, simply because it was a larger source of waste and much easier to work with than the back-of-the-house stuff. (That doesn’t mean back-of-the-house” waste shouldn’t be donated, though; it just wasn’t the best place for us to start. We plan to add back-of-the-house waste once our program gets going.) We knew also that elementary schools were the best place to start when combating tray-to-trash waste, simply because they waste much more food than middle or high schools. With those goals in mind we contacted the director of food service in our district and the food pantry we wanted to partner with and set up a meeting with them to talk about our idea.
The takeaway from that meeting? Let’s pilot this program at a single elementary school, work out the kinks, then expand to other schools if everything goes well.
And that’s as far as we’ve gotten. We’re in the process of that pilot right now. I promise I’ll continue to update this post as our program develops, but for now let me leave you with my biggest piece of advice to anyone starting a program:
Don’t give up. Be persistent. I can’t count on my fingers the number of times people have discarded our ideas flat-out or given us reasons why they won’t work--don’t assume that what they’re saying is true. No matter what happens, be guided by the fact that what you’re doing is right and that it will truly help people.
If you ever want to ask me anything, I’m more than happy to help. You can contact me through the Food Rescue website, and I would be glad to share what I have learned. Good luck!
Ferndale Middle School has established a "share table" in our cafeteria. The purpose of the share table is to divert unwanted food from the trash/landfill and give it to FMS students and the local community. As students exit the lunch line, there are 3 plastic tubs where students can place unwanted food items. We are allowed to collect "peelable" fruit and vegetables, unwrapped/prepackaged food items, and juice.
The food that is not claimed by hungry FMS students will be donated to Renaissance Vineyard food pantry at the end of the week.
Director of School Dining
Chartwells School Dining
Great Lakes Region
I am happy to update on how successful the “New Bedford Academy Food Garbage Rescue Project” continues to be at the school. The project was launched on October 21, 2015. The project was introduced to the school’s principal by a Robotic Team’s coach from a neighboring school. The coach also was a parent of a student at New Bedford Academy. The coach proposed a simple project with a goal of saving one banana from the landfill. The day of the proposal, the principal had a few bananas on his desk that he personal saved that day from the garbage. The principal immediately embraced and welcomed the project into the school. He has allowed the coach to continue the project past the Robotics team’s season in an effort to earn The Michigan Green School recognition. The team’s coach at the time, welcomed and appreciated all of the support Food Rescue offered with emails, newsletters and most importantly the resources on his website.
The students at New Bedford Academy rescue food by forming a line at the end of lunch and sorting their lunch trays and lunch boxes out into bins. The first bin is the “Food Rescue Bin”. Students are encouraged to save uneaten items for later. If the student chooses to discard the food items that has not been opened, or eaten the item is placed in the “Food Rescue Bin”. For the initial launch of the project these items were donated to a local food bank as part of the Robotics Team’s project. Since then, the rescued food has been donated to the School’s before and after school child care program.
The next few bins are for food waste and are sorted by food group types. A parent at the school picks up the food garbage daily to feed to his many exotic and domestic farm animals. He is very pleased that his animal fed costs have dropped. He chuckled, and said that he thinks the animals like it even better than the feed.
School employees noticed immediately the drop in garbage going to the dumpster. They even began to have the students stack the trays so that they would take up less room in the garbage. New Bedford Academy’s student council president, an eighth grader, thought paper recycling at the school was the next step the school should take. The lunch trays were checked and they were also recyclable. Students were eager to start recycling. Boxes were placed in each class room to begin recycling paper. Teachers jumped on board and placed boxes for recycling in the lounge and workroom. The principal arranged for a replacement of the schools 8 cubic yard dumpster with a 6 cubic yard dumpster, and two 96 gallon recycling totes.
This project began as an effort to keep one banana from going to the landfill and continues to have an impact on many other areas of the school. The Science Club has committed to a few projects about ecology for the spring. Student Council is busy planning projects for Earth Day. Everyone seems to be paying a little more attention to the importance of protecting and appreciating the environment. New Bedford Academy has documented their project on Facebook at “New Bedford Academy Food Garbage Rescue Project”. They invite you to “like” their page and to continue to follow their journey.
New Bedford Academy
Food Garbage Rescue Project