‘Share Tables’ in Schools Are Taking on Child Hunger Across the Country

Did you know that there are nearly 13 million starving children in this country, yet as a whole, we waste about 40 percent of food? Now that I have your attention, answer me this: How does that make sense? It doesn’t.

That’s hopefully about to all change. The Texas Student Fairness in Feeding Act, which was signed into law in late 2017, has prompted local districts to star running programs that not only get some good in hungry students’ bellies, but also solves the problem of food getting thrown away or wasted.

“Food insecurity is a major issue,” said Jenny Arredondo, a child nutrition senior executive director for the city’s school system. “It is a huge problem within our district, so a bill like this that has passed, our students are really the ones that are going to benefit from it.”

Before this bill was passed, there were some local, state and federal laws that didn’t allow districts to give extra food to students. Additionally, by federal law, cafeterias aren’t able to re-serve food from the day prior. Students are actually required to take a certain amount of food, even if they don’t like what’s being served or even they aren’t particularly hungry that day.

“It was hard because kids would ask, ‘Do you mind if I can have this for my friends?’ And many times we’d have to tell them no,” said Kittiya Johnson, principal at Cody Elementary in San Antonio, Texas. “We did see quite a bit of waste. The kids would comment on it. ‘Well, are we just gonna throw it away?’ And also the teachers would make those comments.”

The new law now allows Texas schools to distribute unused, non-perishable food to students if they want to. They can create their own food bank or other programs to help feed hungry students and eliminate the amount of perfectly good food that gets thrown away.

Northside Independent School District came up with a brilliant way to implement their new food freedoms. They developed what they call a “Share Cart”—a table where students can drop of foods they didn’t use. Students who want the food can grab whatever it is and eat it during school mealtimes.

“The first goal is to make sure there’s no hungry kids at school,” said volunteer Jennifer Janus. “The second goal is to bring the food here so we can feed the hungry people our town…this is all food that would get thrown away. Food is not trash.”

Not only do students who may not be able to afford a decent lunch get more options, but those who might not be a huge fan of what’s being served that day can trade in their lunch for a different option.

Foods encouraged to go onto the share tables include any unopened, prepackaged foods and unpeeled fruit. Perishable items like milk or juice are welcome as well, but they need to go into a cooler or fridge.

“[It’s] Definitely [made a] huge difference. The kids are definitely happier,” said Charisse Cline, a teacher at Cody Elementary School.

If you’d be interested in starting a share table at your school, check your state’s specific laws, which vary across each.

To learn more about share tables and see how one school puts it into practice, check out the video below!

What do you think of share tables? Have you ever heard of or seen these before?