Claremore Public Schools and school lunch provider Sodexo teamed up over winter break to create a solution to food waste and food insecurity.
Across the district, students returned from break to see Share Carts in their cafeterias.
Students are encouraged to share any unwanted items they got from the cafeteria such as fruit in a peel, unopened juice or milk containers, or unopened packages of snacks like chips, cookies or carrots.
Any student, regardless of whether they bought a cafeteria lunch or brought food from home, is welcome to take items from the share cart at no cost.
Sodexo General Manager Janna Ragland said Sodexo began implementing this program in schools after a 2015 federal regulation forced students to take at least one fruit and vegetable with every meal.
Food waste skyrocketed.
“We all got together to find a way to reduce that waste, and also provide for students who were still hungry,” Ragland said. “We’re reducing waste on the food we’ve purchased with federal and school district funds.”
The cart serves as both an educational tool and a way to insure that students have access to healthy food, even if they couldn’t afford to buy a lunch.
“There was a minimal investment in the carts,” Ragland said, “but the return we see in making sure students have access to healthy foods, and the cost savings on waste, it more than balances out.”
Items that cannot be shared include open packages, anything with a bite taken out of it, or anything brought from home.
Ragland said food brought from home must be excluded because allergens and nutritional information may not be listed on the packaging. The decision is a safety measure to protect students with food sensitivities.
“Superintendent Bryan Frazier has been fully supportive of any of the ways we can get nutrition information out at our schools,” Ragland said.
“We’ve seen great support from the community,” Ragland said, as some schools in the district have shared photos of their carts on social media. “Hopefully it is starting conversations at home.”