Every day, millions of kids have lunch in their school cafeterias all over the nation, and as everyone knows, they rarely eat everything on their trays. What happens to the food they don’t eat? In most schools, it gets thrown into the garbage. Tons of food, wasted. So a teacher at Beachside Montessori K8 Center in Hollywood, Elaine Fiore, came up with the Food Rescue plan.
“Prior to Food Rescue the kids didn’t have a choice but to put it in the trash and it’s estimated that in the entire country over one-billion unopened and unpeeled food items go in the trash from schools,” Fiore said.
At Beachside, if the kids don’t want it, they put the food item in an ice tray labeled, “Food Recovery Table.” It has milk cartons, packages of apple slices, fruit cups, and fresh fruit is kept in a refrigerator. Most of it goes to a homeless shelter, which seems like an obvious solution given that an estimated 48 million Americans are classified as “food insecure.”
“Do we have food for these people, yes, we have food, so it’s a matter of getting the food to the people that need it,” Fiore told her sustainability class.
Fiore started the program last school year. It wasn’t easy, she had to get approval from the state and county health departments as well as the Broward County school district.
Fiore says there’s a misconception that unused food can’t be donated. A federal law called the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act allows organizations and businesses to give food away.
“Very important,” said student Julian Stanish, “‘Because we’re helping the community, we’re helping them feed the community.”
They’re hitting two targets with one arrow, Fiore says.
“They’re able to feed our local hungry, and they are reducing greenhouse gasses because food in the landfill creates methane gas which is 21 times more potent than co2,” Fiore explained.
So the lunchroom lesson goes beyond just saving food from the landfill, the kids learn how this entire effort ties into climate change and saving the environment.
“Well you know what they learn is that you don’t have to be an adult to make a difference,” Fiore added.
Her students in the sustainability class see Food Rescue as an opportunity to make a difference.
“Like it’s a complete, utterly horrific waste and it’s contributing to climate change so we are actually making two problems better all by just giving food to people who need it,” said eighth-grader Kylie King.
A school grandmother volunteers to deliver the food from the school to the Broward Outreach Center twice a week. The director at the homeless services facility says Food Rescue is rescuing people.
“If we had to get by on purchasing the food we wouldn’t be able to serve the people that we do, so we’re so grateful to Beachside Montessori, all the staff and students, everybody who’s making this possible, you’re really saving lives here, thank you,” said James Whitworth of the Broward Outreach Center.
From her school, Fiore hopes Food Rescue spreads all over the county and then all over the state.
Small acts, like students tossing their milk cartons into an ice tray instead of the garbage can, can make a big difference.