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 for more information.

Safe Sharps Disposal

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Sharpen Your Disposal Knowledge

Many people and pets use sharps to get the medicine they need to manage a variety of medical conditions. Sharps waste includes any device that penetrates the skin to deliver medications. Disposing of sharps waste safely at a collection bin helps protect people, our furry friends, and the environment.

• Place used sharps in a sealed, puncture proof container.
• No larger than 1 gallon in size.
• Securely seal the container.
• Repurposed containers must be taped, puncture proof, and labeled “sharps.”
• Bring sealed sharps container to the drop-off bin.
• Never put loose sharps into the bins.

sharps no backgroundCan’t drop-off your sharps? There are several sharps mail-back options and free container programs that may be available to you depending on what type of medication you use. To find out more information about safe sharps disposal visit

Have more than just sharps to dispose of? Drop-off unwanted or expired medicine at over 50 convenient kiosks in San Mateo County. For a list of locations, or to find out about mail-back package options for disabled or home bound residents, visit

San Mateo County’s Beach Monitoring Program

Allison Fang beach samplingKeeping You Safe One Week at a Time

San Mateo is lucky to be home to a variety of beautiful beaches and creeks, along both the Bayside and the Pacific Ocean, from the San Pedro Creek watershed emptying to Linda Mar Beach in the north, to Gazos Creek emptying into Gazos Beach in the south. We’re even world-famous with Maverick’s Surf Contest held (mostly) offshore from
Pillar Point Harbor.

While our beaches are a great place to swim, surf or just splash in the foam, they’re also a place where you could become sick through water contact if bacteria, like E. coli, are elevated and exceed State and Federal standards.

You can stay safe and enjoy the beaches, avoiding skin rashes or infections, headache, and flu-like symptoms, by paying attention to warning signs that San Mateo County Environmental Health Services post to alert you to avoid water contact at beaches that have exceeded bacteria standards.

We have your back to keep your health on track, protecting locals and visitors alike. Each week a combination of County staff and dedicated, trained volunteers sample the water at 40 swimming/surfing beaches and creek mouths around the County. Water is analyzed for various bacteria, and if bacteria levels are elevated, signs are posted, and the web page is updated to advise you to avoid any water contact.

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Samples are collected every Monday morning, with results posted on by Wednesday each week. Signs are also posted at access points to monitored beaches and creeks mouths. However, regardless of our postings, you should be cautious by following these general rules:

• Avoid swimming in creek water in general, but especially when the creek is not flowing.
• Avoid ocean or creek water contact during and for three days following a rainfall.
• Don’t swim in ocean water within 100 feet of a creek      mouth entering the ocean.
• Avoid swimming in water that is frothy/foamy, off-colored (brown, reddish or
cloudy), or has an offensive odor.

Stay updated on when it’s safe to swim or surf by signing up for our beach water quality updates at

Interested in helping keep our surfers and swimmers safe?
Join the volunteer beach sampling team by contacting
Water Program Supervisor, Greg Smith at

School Share Tables

Saving Food and Feeding Children

Did you know that 62.5 million tons of food is wasted each year, while
42.2 million people in the United States don’t have enough food to eat? Even right here in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most affluent places to live, there are parents struggling to put food on the table for their kids. In response, San Mateo County Environmental Health Services started the Food Share Table Program with a goal of no hungry kids at school and to divert food from ending up in landfills
emitting methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

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Sharing and caring is evident through a Program where students are taught to only take food they plan to eat and share any unwanted, uneaten food with others. This helps ensure everyone has access to enough food to lead a healthy and active lifestyle, and protect the environment by reducing food waste.

“Composting food should be Plan B. We need to start looking further upstream and divert edible food from even ending up in the trash, especially when we hear about how many families are struggling to put meals on the dinner table daily,” says Allison Milch, Pollution Prevention Specialist and coordinator of the Food Share Table Program in the

If you visit an elementary school in South San Francisco and Redwood City’s school district, you’ll see the success of the share tables with food continuously going in and out of color coded bins, and signage reminding everyone that the share table station is the first stop before heading to the trash bins when lunch is over.banana-1504956_1920

To date, nine schools (about 4,500 students) have incorporated the Program into their mealtime, with an average of about 73 pieces of food prevented from being landfilled daily at each school.

“The share table has been a great success. Ms. Havr (the cafeteria manager) has done a great job setting up a protocol and the noon supervisors are following the plan well. Many students are being fed with nutritious food, quite a few augmenting what they may lack from home and much less food is wasted each day. Thank you all for your support in getting this going,” says Cregg Ramich, Buri Buri Elementary School’s Principal in South San Francisco.Principal Cregg and Lisa Haver with Student

While the launch of the Program is a huge milestone, there are still many more schools out there wasting edible and nutritious food. If you are a parent, teacher, or principal, and want to start a share table at your school, please reach out to San Mateo County Environmental Health Services at (650) 372-6252 or visit for more information.

Flaws of Single-Use Straws

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You spend minutes sipping through a straw but it can end up spending decades in the ocean because its plastic, and doesn’t biodegrade. Instead, it lingers as litter for an animal to mistake as food, or even worse, get stuck inside a sea turtle’s nose (yes, this has happened). For years straws remain the 7th most picked up litter item during worldwide events like Coastal Cleanup Day, and no matter how hard we try, we just can’t get them all. While companies like Starbucks have made commitments to phase out plastic straws by 2020, what can we as straw sippers do to prevent straw pollution? You as one person can do a lot.

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Paper or plastic? Go with paper instead of plastic straws. They are a little more expensive, but you can feel good knowing the straw will biodegrade when you are done sipping on it.


Go with a reusable straw. Keep a reusable straw on hand for any cold beverage purchases you make along the way. Places like Amazon, Target, and more sell these at a reasonable price. Enter to win a nifty collapsible keychain straw by visiting


Go completely reusable. Purchase a reusable cold beverage container that comes with a reusable straw. This not only reduces straw litter, but single-use plastic consumption in general. Or, if straws aren’t a sipping staple for you, skip them entirely.


San Mateo County’s Healthy Nail Salon Program

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Your nails may be pampered, but what about your lungs?

If you aren’t visiting a certified Healthy Nail Salon you may not be breathing as easy while getting pampered as you should be. Nail salon air is lurking with many toxic chemicals. Don’t get poisoned while getting pampered. Salons certified by San Mateo County use less-toxic products and a ventilation unit that filters fumes and nail dust so you can breathe easy during your next nail service. Certified salons have partnered with San Mateo County to provide you with a $5 certificate. Start receiving certificates throughout the year via email or text message by signing up at

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Click here for a printable $5 certificate valid at over 15 salons.

Medicine Disposal Bins Now at CVS!


Now you can drop where you shop.

In 2015 San Mateo County joined many other counties in California and Washington to adopt ordinances that require pharmaceutical companies to fund the safe and convenient collection of unwanted or expired medicine for residents.

In 2017, 36 kiosks were installed throughout the County ranging from local pharmacies to police stations with over 31,000 pounds of medicine collected.

The Program just got even better with 14 new CVS kiosk installation sites making it even easier to get rid of medicine with over 50 drop-off disposal locations available for residents throughout San Mateo County.

Haven’t had a chance to clean out your cabinet? Now is as good of time as any to protect your pets from accidental ingestion, and teens from access to medicines no longer needed.

Remember, never flush medicine down the toilet, or dispose of it in the trash to help protect our environment and waterways from medicine pollution.

CVS Locations

For a complete list of over 50 locations in San Mateo County, visit


1871 El Camino Real (650) 692-5065

Daly City

375 Gellert Blvd. (650) 994-0752

135 Pierce St. (650) 992-2521

Foster City

987 E Hillsdale Blvd. (650) 570-4693

Half Moon Bay

60 Cabrillo Hwy N. (650) 726-6684

Menlo Park

700 El Camino Real (650) 566-1405

Redwood City

1301 Broadway St. (650) 364-2111

1039 El Camino Real (650) 780-9910

San Carlos

11 El Camino Real (650) 595-8511

1324 San Carlos Ave. (650) 591-7659

San Mateo

77 Bovet Rd. (650) 349-6303

124 De Anza Blvd. (650) 572-2514

872 N Delaware St. (650) 342-7448

4242 S El Camino Real (650) 573-5401


Reduce, Recharge, Recycle

Measuring with digital multimeter of rechargeable battery

A multi meter is used to test battery life.

Batteries charge our world and power the devices that make our lives convenient. In an effort to reduce the amount of waste we generate, here are some simple tips for household battery use.

Continue reading

Ditch the Disposables

Calling all campers! Beckoning all BBQers! Tempting all tailgaters! Summer is approaching, and we know you’ll be fueling up your portable stoves and barbeques to grill up the juiciest hot dogs and roast the perfect veggies. That means it’s time to go reusable with 1lb. propane cylinders.


Campers power their portable stove with a refillable 1lb. cylinder.


Why go reusable? Continue reading

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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!