Deer Lakes’ ‘Sharing Table’ program to reduce waste, address hunger
If you’re not going to eat that apple, don’t throw it away.
That’s the philosophy behind the Deer Lakes School District’s new food sharing program, known as Sharing Tables.
Starting Monday, students will be asked to leave unopened or unused food or drinks they don’t want on designated Sharing Tables in each of the district’s cafeterias for others to take if they’re thirsty or hungry.
Food Services Director Jake Douglas came up with the idea. He said he wanted to do something to help address food waste and food insecurity in the district.
“I noticed that there were a lot of students and individuals that were throwing away unused items. Food insecurity affects everyone no matter where you are or who you are. I’ve heard of sharing tables and I’ve implemented them before, so I wanted to implement it here and try and make an impact,” Douglas said.
Douglas thought the program would be a good fit for the district.
He said students already were coming up with ways to save or share unused foods, like giving them to their friends or leaving them on tables. He thought the Sharing Tables program would be the best way to offer a more structured form of sharing.
“I wanted something that reached out to all children,” he said. “Times have kind of changed a little bit. There’s no more ticket for a free lunch. You really have no clue from a child what their status may be, what their eligibility is, what’s going on at home, so we wanted to implement something that hit every single student.”
The tables will be decorated with black spandex and green cloth and have posters that encourage students to take and leave items. They will offer food and drinks such as apples, oranges, bananas, milk, juice, muffins, pastries, donuts, cereals and graham crackers. Anything that’s prepackaged or has a skin is welcome.
“It’s not going to be just a random table in the corner. We wanted to make it stand out a little bit and look exciting for the students,” Douglas said.
The items on the Sharing Tables will be those that are served by the district. For safety reasons, students won’t be able to share any food or drinks they bring from home. The tables will be monitored to make sure students leave the right items.
Items that are leftover from breakfast will be washed and put out first for lunch students to cut down on waste.
“That way, we can reuse those items and repurpose them rather than having to throw them away,” Douglas said.