How Oakland became a leader in cutting school food waste

Among the 40 percent of all food thrown out is this statistic: America’s school lunch programs waste $5 million in food every day. FERN’s latest story, published with Grist, focuses on Nancy Deming of the Oakland Unified School District, a leader in the movement to cut school food waste and redirect the food to students and people in need. Here’s the main take-aways:

  • Deming set up “share tables” in school lunch rooms so students can leave or pick up unwanted whole fruit, packaged foods, or other meal items.
  • These food programs are mandatory in 40 Oakland schools, serving 40,000 students. Only around 500 of the nation’s 98,000 public schools have share tables.
  • Deming established a “Take It & Go” initiative that allows students to bring unfinished fruit and packaged vegetables back to their classrooms, which is forbidden in many schools.
  • School custodian Tanya Davis gives kids simple message: “Don’t waste it, because some kids don’t eat enough at home.”
  • Two-thirds of the schools compost food waste.
  • Excess and uneaten food is sent to shelters to feed homeless people.

As Jonathan Bloom writes: “The district has arguably done more than any other in the country to minimize excess food, redistribute edible leftovers to people in need, and compost the inevitable inedibles.” Read the fully story here.