Merced (CA) Schools has implemented a “sharing tray” system that allows students to avoid throwing out unconsumed food and drink. They simply place the excess items they either purchased or brought from home on the sharing tray for others to take. The items must be unopened. Originally launched at Rivera Middle School, it is now being implemented at all 17 district cafeterias in the K-8 district.
In addition, leftovers from the kitchens are trucked back to the district warehouse, from where they are picked up by volunteers every couple days, says Merced Nutrition Services Director Terri Soares. An average of four cases makes its way to two shelters at each pickup. The district purchased a refrigerated truck last year that it uses to make deliveries to its school sites from its warehouse, so the unused food and drink are efficiently backhauled through those routes.
“There's a lot of milk and produce that goes unopened or uneaten, especially from first and second grade,” Soares explains. “This is normal and part of the learning process. The sharing tray and the program with the shelters keeps it from going to waste. Instead, it goes to those who need it.”