“No Thank You” Bin Makes Students and Administrators Smile

A Wright Elementary student adds his apple sauce to the "no thank you" bin in the cafeteria.

A Wright Elementary student adds his apple sauce to the “no thank you” bin in the cafeteria.

When 10-year-old Ayden O’Donnell goes through the breakfast line at Wright Elementary School, there are some foods he is required by the federal government to put on his tray. Even if he doesn’t like the item. A new program at the school is helping Ayden feel better about where the leftover food is going.

“I think it’s pretty cool because then we donate it to people, and they get the food that we don’t want,” O’Donnell said. “It feels pretty good.”

Wright Elementary is one of seven schools participating in the district’s new Food Rescue Program. It’s designed to help eliminate waste in the lunchroom.

A special “no thank you” bin is set up near the tray return so that students can donate the prepackaged, unopened food left on their tray. The school nurse collects the food and distributes it to students who don’t have enough food at home.

“Do you want to try it?” Food service coordinator Shelly Jerrett raises her voice over the noise in the kitchen as she talks to students in the breakfast line. “Tell me at lunchtime what you think of it, o.k.?”

Jerrett encourages students to sample everything at least once. But if food is going to end up in the garbage, she’s glad it gets diverted.

“We treat students with tender love and care,” Jerrett said.

Breakfast and lunch items that are rescuable include cereal, graham crackers, pop tarts, crackers, apples, bananas, raisins, Crasins, apple sauce cups, juices and sunflower seeds. Once an item leaves the kitchen, it cannot be returned or resold.

“The Food Rescue Program is a way for us to decrease our waste and use it appropriately so that we aren’t just sending it to a landfill,” Food Service Training Specialist Amanda Miller said.

The other benefit of the program, Miller said, is that nutrition center staff can track what kids actually consume. Which is helpful when deciding what to put on the menu in the future.

Other schools involved in the program include Smouse, Findley, Oak Park, Edmunds, Brubaker and Stowe.

Food Rescue at Wright Elementary School

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