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.

Cooking with Care this Holiday Season

Cooking at home can be a great way to spend time with family during the holidays. Keep everyone safe by following these tips on food safety in the kitchen.

Clean:

  • Wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Wash all fresh produce before cutting or consuming.
  • Prevent colds from spreading to your food. Keep sticky fingers out of the kitchen and cover foods if possible.

Separate:

  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and ready-to-eat items like vegetables and bread to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Ensure raw eggs, meat, poultry and their juices stay separate from foods that won’t be cooked.

Cook:

  • Use a chafing dish to keep hot foods at 135°F or above.
  • Reheat leftovers quickly and thoroughly to 165°F.
  • Bake cookies according to instructions. It’s tempting, but don’t eat the raw dough!
  • If frying foods, be aware of the cooking times to ensure food is fully cooked and ready for consumption. Find out where to properly dispose of cooking oil after use here.

Chill:

  • Use ice bowls to keep food cold (below 40°F).
  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of preparation.
  • Do not defrost food at room temperature. Opt for safe defrosting in the refrigerator, microwave or under cold running water.

What food tips or recipes do you have to share with us? Comment below and the first 10 participants will win a thermometer!

Happy Holidays from Environmental Health Services!

Stay Merry with these Nine Safe Holiday Food Tips

img_8909Follow these tips to stay food safe this holiday season whether you are making a Christmas ham, Kwanzaa jerk chicken or Hanukkah latkes.

  1. Use a chafing dish to keep hot foods at (+135°F) or above.
  2. Use ice bowls to keep food cold (-41°F).
  3. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of preparation.
  4. Reheat leftovers quickly and thoroughly to 165°F.
  5. Bake cookies according to instructions It’s temping, but don’t eat the raw dough!
  6. Prevent colds from spreading to your food. Keep sticky fingers out of the kitchen and cover foods if possible.
  7. Wash all fresh produce before cutting or consuming.
  8. Wash your hands before, during and after food prep.
  9. If frying foods, be aware of the cooking times needed to make sure food are fully cooked and ready for consumption. Find out where to properly dispose of the cooking oil after use here.

What food tips or recipes do you have to share with us? Comment below!

Happy Holidays from Environmental Health Services!

Food Placards: Have You Seen Them?

Have you seen these PASS placards around San Mateo County?

Have you seen these PASS placards around San Mateo County?

It’s been eleven months since Environmental Health Services (EHS) started putting up color-coded food placards as part of routine food inspections in San Mateo County.

Since January 2016, 86% of restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores and other food facilities have enrolled in the program and are now displaying green “PASS” placards. EHS staff initially issued 38 yellow “CONDITIONAL PASS” and 29 red “CLOSED” placards, however through technical assistance provided all of these food facilities are now displaying green “PASS” placards.

Since the placards went live we’ve received some questions from you about the program, so we’ve summarized some quick facts about what the green, yellow and red colors mean and where to look for them the next time you head out to your favorite restaurant, cafeteria, or café.

Continue reading

Keep the Food Tricks Out of “Trick-or-Treating” this Halloween

halloweendessertHalloween can be a fun and spooky time of year for all with sweet treats and parties and the grand event of trick-or-treating.

To make sure this year’s trick-or-treating experience stays fun, Environmental Health Services recommends the following food safety tips for your scary celebration.

Continue reading

Stay Food Safe When Going Back to School

father_son_foodSummer is over which means the kids are back in school and you are back to packing lunches on the go. Before you start packing, Environmental Health Services want to remind you about a few food safety tips that will prevent your little ones (or not so little) from falling ill because of improper food handling.

Continue reading

Stay Food Safe this Summer Grilling Season

Have a food safe summer.

Have a food safe summer.

With the dog days of summer upon us, it’s the season to take extra precautions when handling, cooking and serving food for your backyard barbecues or outdoor picnics.

While the warmer weather may be ideal for summer grilling, it also creates an ideal environment for bacteria and pathogens to grow in food and cause foodborne illnesses.

Luckily, we have compiled a list of simple steps to help you stay a grilling superstar and not the one who ruined Uncle Joe’s barbeque by making everyone sick.

Continue reading

Mussels on the Menu?

Are your mussels safe to eat?

Are your mussels safe to eat?

You may have heard about the commercial California Dungeness crab season getting a very late start this year due to domoic acid levels that took fresh crab off the menu. Another poison that you may not have heard about is paralytic shellfish poisoning. It’s a toxin to keep on your radar if you are a shellfish hunter, or just a fan of eating locally harvested shellfish.

Continue reading

Update: Food Placarding Has Started

Have you seen a PASS placard around?

Have you seen a PASS placard around?

For the past few months, Environmental Health Service’s food program has been hosting a series of “How to Get a Green” sessions for restaurants to help prepare for the food placarding system that officially launched on January 1, 2016.

The sessions taught restaurant employees and management how to get a green placard by avoiding the five most common food violations that contribute to food-borne illness.

Continue reading

Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips: Everybody knows a turkey and some…side dishes

be food prepared this Thanksgiving

be food prepared this Thanksgiving

Nat King Cole sang this verse about turkey during the holidays, but you can learn a lot from the USDA Poultry hotline about safe turkey handling and cooking. However, it’s the side dishes and daylong potluck buffet that will have you singing the blues if you don’t watch it.

Continue reading