Investigating the impact of American’s food-share program as well as its recent expansion to all FUSD schools

Annie Liu

Staff Writer

    Didn’t manage to finish your lunch before the bell? Don’t like bananas but took one anyway? Not to worry! With the recent implementation of the food-share program at all schools throughout FUSD in December, students can now turn these situations into a chance to help the environment and their community.

    The food-share program was started in February 2017 by AHS’s Science and Eco Club in an attempt to reduce food waste. The program allows students to donate unwanted food by placing it in designated bins in the school cafeteria.

    “In the cafeteria, when the program started, students were required to take three food items: an entree, a carton of milk, and a fruit or vegetable. Not every student would finish all of their food, so often fruit or other unopened food items would end up in the landfill, which is a huge waste,” explained Shreya Ramachandran (12). “Food that ends up in the landfill contributes to climate change by producing methane gas, which is 36 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The food-share program helps solve this issue. If a student has an uneaten food item then they can place it on the table. There, any student can pick it up for any reason.”

    The food-share program has proven to be a widely-used and accessible resource that can be utilized for a variety of reasons by a diverse group of people.

    “Some people take food because they are hungry—they might have forgotten lunch that day, they might want food for later, or anything else,” said Ramachandran. “You can take food if you can’t afford it as well, and it really is a great resource for students. The food-share table is there for everyone, including teachers.”

    The food that is collected is not just restricted to the school community—what is not picked up by students or faculty is then donated to local food banks, which furthers the impact of this program.

    “At the end of the week, whatever surplus food the cafeteria has, they store in the food-share refrigerator and notify me. I then coordinate with student or parent volunteers to help deliver the food to the Tri-City Volunteers food bank, who uses the food for their Bag Lunch Program,” wrote Sr. Navarrete, advisor of the Science and Eco Club, in a report regarding the program. “During the 2017-2018 school year, we succeeded to donate approximately 1,853 pounds of edible food to our local food bank, Tri-City Volunteers.”

    Tri-City Volunteers serves up to 16,000 people every month through its food cart and bagged lunch program, which relies partly on the donations from the food-share program.

    “Our clients, particularly our homeless clients or clients that identify with homelessness… don’t have a place to store food,” explained Stacy Hart of Tri-City Volunteers to KPIX CBS SF Bay Area. “[They] come here, and they get a meal a day from us, and these foods help provide healthy options for them.”

    In December, the food-share program was expanded to all schools throughout FUSD, with each school in the district being provided with a donation bin to collect food. These bins were set up with the help of the Science and Eco Club at American as well as Stop Waste, an organization that works to prevent food waste, and the support of the school district and Child Nutrition Services. The effects of introducing this program to other schools have been felt on a widespread level, with students all over the district citing it as a positive influence on their campus community. For many students, this new program is a way for them to help their peers who are less privileged than them.

    “Students who could not [previously] afford lunch can take from the food bin,” said Lydia Lazum, an eighth-grader at Thornton Junior High who has witnessed the food-share program in action. “[It’s] important to Thornton because we, as a school, want to give a helping hand to those who would benefit from it.”

    Other students feel that the program has encouraged people to put more thought into the impact that each student can have on both their community and the health of the environment.

    “I think students have benefited from this program because they have more awareness of what they are eating and the importance of conserving what they have, and, if they don’t want it, giving it to the less fortunate,” described Mikey Paine, a junior at Washington High School. “This program is a boon for the Washington community because it promotes a great avenue for conservation and lessening the [negative] impact we have on the environment.”

    As for the future of this program at American itself, Science and Eco Club President LeAnn Liu (12) notes that perhaps, it would be even more beneficial to the school if multiple food-share tables were set up around campus. “[Currently], we set up a table [in the cafeteria]; maybe we could set [some] up around the school—[such as] one in the rotunda,” she explained. More importantly, she hopes that it will motivate more students to understand and become aware of the benefits of being eco-friendly. “If they’re willing to see the greater impact of it, and how important it is to reduce food wastage, compost, and sort your waste properly, that would be really nice,” she said.

    For Kathryn Tarver, an American High School alumna who was heavily involved in the initial efforts to set up the program back in 2017, it is extremely rewarding to see the impact that the food-share program has had on the entire FUSD community.

    “I am absolutely thrilled. The program not only channels spare food to hungry people, but [it] also normalizes minimizing waste. The graduates of our district will bring that mindset with them to their future communities,” she explained. “When the program began, I said that American High was the center of a ripple. The expansion to the rest of the district is the ripple beginning to spread.”

Caption: AHS Science and Eco Club members prepare the food share donation bins before they are distributed to schools throughout FUSD. “I think that it is really amazing that this program has been expanded to other schools and [that] this is a huge success. We are the first school district in the county to have foodshare programs districtwide and American High was, in many ways, a pilot school for the program, and we’ve seen tremendous success with it,” said Shreya Ramachandran (12). (Photo Credit: AHS Science and Eco Club)

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