SHARE

School share tables are popping up in cafeterias all over America as a way to combat mass food waste and ensure students aren’t going hungry.

Photo: @sustainable_america via Instagram

It’s lunchtime and your kid is turning up her nose at that apple you packed for her. Her choices? She could take it home so you could pack it again tomorrow (though you know it’s futile) or throw it in the garbage so you’d be none the wiser.

Banana hanging over a garbage can

But cafeterias across America have come up with a third option: “Share tables” like the one pictured above have been popping up in schools for the past couple of years. Essentially, they’re communal tables where kids can leave the food they don’t want and pick up something they’ll actually eat.

It’s a long way from covert swapping behind the lunch monitor’s back, and it has benefits that go beyond giving kids more lunchtime options, like ensuring other kids don’t go hungry. Everyone is welcome to take or leave something at the table, and there’s no stigma for students who may want to grab more food. At the end of the day, all of the leftovers get donated to local shelters or charities, or are sent home to a family that may need some extra help.

According to guidelines set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the tables are monitored and food should be prepackaged, non-perishable and stored properly so it’s safe.

The USDA calls it “an innovative strategy to encourage the consumption of nutritious foods and reduce food waste.” In Canada, $31 billion worth of food is wasted every year. There’s no word yet on share tables showing up in Canadian schools, but it might just be a matter of time before this smart idea catches on here.

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