Reducing waste, helping with hunger

By Erin Perkins -

MASON COUNTY — Mason County Schools have recently launched a new meal time initiative to help reduce food waste.

“Share tables” are located in a student common eating area, where students can place their unconsumed, pre-packaged, non-perishable foods and beverages from their meals on this table, giving other students access to the items.

Superintendent Jack Cullen commented “share tables” will not only help eliminate food waste, but also be a way to provide children in need with extra food.

In Article 5D of the West Virginia Feed to Achieve Act, Shared Table Initiative it states: “In West Virginia, one in four children suffer from food insecurity; however, every day each school has a large percentage of food that is left uneaten and thrown away, and in many cases can be reused. A new initiative called ‘The Shared Table’ encourages schools to collect unused food appropriate for redistribution, and make that food available throughout the day to students who may be hungry, to provide a method for discrete distribution of that food to be taken home by kids with food insecurity, and to donate any unused food to local food pantries and other entities that distribute food to those in need.”

Child Nutrition Director Beverly Glaze shared since the start of the new school year she has visited five out the 10 Mason County schools and all five of these schools have share tables set up in their cafeterias. The share tables are located near the serving lines and the tables are being properly monitored. Glaze commented all fresh items having edible flesh served for lunch are being wrapped as well.

According to the guidelines listed in “Share Tables at Schools,” a responsible person who is educated on food safety principles must supervise share tables. The selected person will be in charge of ensuring only allowable foods are placed on the share tables, as well as ensuring all fresh items with edible flesh are wrapped. The allowable foods on a share table are as follows: items that are whole, uneaten, and unopened; items that are unopened, pre-packaged; whole pieces of fruit with a peel; whole pieces of fruit with an edible peel (these items must either be re-washed or wrapped); unopened milk only if immediately stored in a cooling bin at 41 degrees or below.

Glaze said implementing a “share table” during meal times is a good way with helping to reduce food waste. She explained it is mandated for each student being served a meal to be given a fruit or vegetable. At times, the student may not want to eat this item and by being able to ‘share’ the item, rather than throwing the item away, another student can benefit. Glaze said another positive aspect of this initiative is the ‘sharing’ of these uneaten items is not limited to being given away during meals, students can take these items home or teachers can use them as a snack for their students in their classrooms.

Glaze shared she has received positive reactions from both the staff and students at Mason County schools and Cullen added the board of education members are also pleased with this new meal time initiative.

By Erin Perkins

Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.

Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.