As summer draws to an end, parents and students are beginning to prepare for the new school year. For a large number of students, school lunches may be the only full meal that they can depend on receiving regularly. Feeding San Diego estimates that approximately 137,450 children in San Diego County suffer from hunger due to food insecurity.
Unfortunately, food waste is common on school campuses. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that each year approximately 12% of edible food is discarded by students in schools throughout the nation; a large amount of this discarded food consists of whole fruit and unopened milk containers. In an effort to assist local schools in alleviating food insecurity and reducing food waste, the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health (DEH) partnered with school nutrition directors from school districts throughout the county and educated the schools’ staff on safe food handling of items that are found on sharetables. Share tables are located in common eating areas where students can place their unwanted whole fruits and pre-packaged foods for other students to eat. These share tables provide an opportunity for students to take additional helpings of food or beverages at no cost, and reduce the amount of edible foods that are discarded in the trash.
To further educate school sites and promote the safe implementation of share tables throughout San Diego County schools, DEH created a food safety guidance document that offers food safety tips to ensure share tables are always monitored and managed safely. The Share Tables at Schools guidance document can be viewed here.