When you think about school cafeterias, what comes to mind? Children lined up waiting to get a hot meal or multiple conversations happening at once.
Have you ever wondered what happens to the uneaten food and the unopened milk and juice boxes? Most of the time, the unused food items are thrown away in the trash without any thought and eventually ends up in landfills.
This isn’t the case at Sandpiper Elementary School. Four years ago, a parent at Sandpiper Elementary School noticed that perfectly good food was being wasted, and partnerships with Food Bus, Inc. and Waste Not AZ were formed.
“At Sandpiper, there’s a ‘share table,’ and any food items such as apples, cheese sticks, yogurt, milk and juice that are not eaten or opened by our students are donated to Waste Not. At the end of each lunch period, our 6th grade students transport uneaten food to the refrigerator for storing,” said Diana Cameron, principal.
In order to make the partnership successful, Waste Not provided the school with a refrigerator and picks up the food on a regular basis. The uneaten food is then distributed to those in need in the community, including nursing homes, veterans homes, drug rehab centers and at halfway houses. Waste Not doesn’t warehouse the food that is collected. The organization acts as a middleman and works with more than 150 community partners to help eliminate local hunger. The food is transferred to their recipient agency partners the same day it is picked up.
“We’re instilling in our students that they are making an impact in our local community and in the lives of individuals who need it most. At the same time, we are also teaching students the importance of not wasting valuable resources such as food,” said Ms. Cameron.
How can other schools get involved?
Ms. Cameron has met with representatives from Desert Shadows Elementary School, Desert Trails Elementary School, North Ranch Elementary School, Sonoran Sky Elementary School and Pinnacle Peak Preparatory School who are interested in possibly implementing the program at their schools in the near future. If your school would like to implement this program, please contact Ms. Cameron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why there is a need to help?
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), up to 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten and ends up in landfills. Additionally, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that 13.1 million children under 18 years old in the United States live in households where they are consistently unable to access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.
Food insufficiency in Arizona is a direct result of inadequate living wages. Approximately, 74 percent of emergency food clients live at or below the poverty level.
- In Arizona, 1 in 4 children and 1 in 5 adults live in poverty.
- Furthermore, 1 in 6 Arizonans are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come.