School Share Tables Save Food, Feed Children

A simple solution to reduce food waste and address child hunger

In 2018, San Mateo County Environmental Health Services started the Food Share Table Program and in only a year we’ve come a long way!

To date we’ve partnered with Rethink Waste, and the Office of Sustainability to successfully introduce a program that teaches students and school staff how to safely share food during meal time at 11 schools in the County. That’s approximately 5,000 students now saving an average of 16,000 pieces of food per school during the school year with a share table in place.

The Program is helping to divert hundreds of tons of food from being thrown in our landfills daily, which prevents methane generation, a greenhouse gas emission causing climate change.

The amazing part is, 16,000 pieces of food previously feeding the landfill are
now providing an extra serving of edible food to elementary school students whose only meal of the day may be in the school cafeteria.

How Does the Program Work?

Environmental Health Services train teachers and school employees on how to share food safely using a Share Table Guide developed by food safety staff and provide schools with color code food grade bins. They are also educated on how to safely donate surplus food to other organizations at the end of the lunch period.

Students get an overview of how the table works and a game is played to help teach them what food goes where and why the share table is important. During lunch, students can place food in and take food out of the colorful share table bins which are separated by hot food, cold food, packaged shelf stable food, and utensils and condiments.

Only unopened, unbitten cafeteria food is allowed on the table, no food from home is allowed. School staff monitor the table and manage the remaining food according to food safety rules.

How Can I Support Starting a Share Table at My Child’s School?

Establishing a share table at your child’s school is a team effort. It requires the support of the school district, the principal, school staff, and Environmental Health Services to make it a success and ensure food safety is maintained. If you would like to see a share table at your child’s school, please contact us at (650) 372-6252, and visit smchealth.org/sharetable for more information.

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