Archive | April, 2019

Hoover kids learn to share ­­– not waste — leftover food

24 Apr

3

Anyone who has ever prepared food for children knows it’s not always easy to get them to clean their plates or finish a meal.

So you can imagine what it’s like in a school cafeteria, where kids decide for themselves when they’re done and what they will or won’t eat.

Lots of food gets thrown away, but Hoover schools have joined a host of schools across the country that are trying to prevent food waste by implementing what they call “share tables.”

When kids get through eating, if they still have food left over, they can put certain food and drink items on the share table for someone else to pick up.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does, however, have specific best practices they encourage schools to use if they have share tables, and Hoover schools follow those guidelines, child nutrition director Melinda Bonner said.

Children can only put whole pieces of fruit or unopened prepackaged items, such as a bag of baby carrots or sliced apples, on the share table. Unopened milk or juice containers also are accepted and are put in a container of ice to keep them cool.

At the end of the day, any leftover milk is discarded and food items are donated to Magic City Harvest, a nonprofit that gathers leftover food from grocery stores, restaurants, schools and hospitals and distributes it to agencies that feed people, Bonner said.

But most Hoover schools find ways to distribute leftover food to their own students who need or want it, she said.

At Trace Crossings Elementary, enrichment teacher Jodi Tofani carries the food to her classroom, where kids use it for snacks. Special education teachers who work in her hall get food for their students who might need it, she said. With the exception of two milk bottles, “every single Friday, it’s all gone.”

At Simmons Middle School, child nutrition manager Teresa Short typically carries about 100 items left over from the share table to the bus lines and offers food for kids to take home with them.

“Even though we’re Hoover, we know that children go home and don’t have snacks,” Short said. “It might be a long time ‘til momma comes home and cooks. … We’re trying anything that could help our kids get through to supper.”

Usually, all the food is taken, she said.

Simmons was one of the first Hoover schools to implement share tables, doing so in the 2017-18 school year, Short said. Now, all the schools offer them, Bonner said.

Tofani, at Trace Crossings, said the program required a little bit of training. Kids had to learn they couldn’t take a bite out of an apple and still put it on the share table, she said.

Older students in her enrichment classes made signs to explain the rules and help supervise the table to make sure all the kids know what can and can’t go there.

Tofani’s students counted one day, and there were 158 items donated, she said. Juice, fruit and milk were the main items donated, but sometimes kids will share other things, she said.

Exactly half of those items were picked up by other students during meal times, and the other half were distributed throughout the day, she said. More items are donated during breakfast because by lunchtime, more kids have developed a full appetite, she said.

J.M. Galbraith, one of the fourth-graders who helps with the share table, said most of the children who put food on the table are kindergartners, while the older kids are the ones who take things off of it.

Leilani Bell, a second-grader at Trace Crossings, said she thinks the share table is great. Sometimes, she doesn’t want her cereal, so she’ll put it on the share table so somebody else can have it, she said.

Otherwise, “that’s just wasting your money,” she said. “You have to pay for this food.”

Another time, she picked up a chocolate milk from the share table for herself, she said.

Annabelle Hudson, another second-grader, said she has given to and taken from the share table as well. “I think it’s very kind to share all the food because sharing is caring,” she said.

Advertisements