Sharing Tables Help Create Culture of Giving Back
Published on 1/21/20
District News Dr Weeks Elementary School
During their lunch periods, students across the SCSD now have the opportunity to leave unopened, uneaten food that they don’t want – or to pick up a little extra food – as needed.
Thanks to Sharing Tables now available in most SCSD school cafeterias, the initiative is increasing food consumption, reducing food insecurity and decreasing food waste. But it’s also creating a culture of caring, giving students the opportunity to anonymously give their surplus items to friends or classmates who may be in need.
At Dr. Weeks, students even have an opportunity to grab something extra in between classes, as the school’s Administrative Intern regularly walks around in the afternoon carrying leftover food from the Sharing Table bins.
“It’s all about teaching the kids in the lunch line that if they don’t want something, they should take it anyway and leave it at the Sharing Table,” Cook Manager Shaun Ward said. “The kids are really excited to have the opportunity to leave extra food for others. They know they’re doing something nice and leaving it for a buddy. And for the kids who may be hungry, it’s almost like a treasure… they often find a favorite food in there.”
Food items commonly found on Sharing Tables include sandwiches, fruit cups, fresh fruit items, beverages and more. Cold items are kept in a tray chilled with ice packs, and warm items are removed at the end of each lunch period for quality control.
“I like the Sharing Table because if you eat your lunch but you’re still hungry or you want a little more, you can ask to get it,” fifth grader Bernice Wright said.
“Sometimes, we don’t know what someone goes through at home,” fifth grader Lucky Ishime said. “Maybe someone didn’t eat dinner last night or breakfast this morning and they’re hungry. I like leaving food at the Sharing Table because my mom says when you do a good action like that, it will reflect back to you.”
Food and Nutrition Services Director Rachel Murphy said the Sharing Tables initially started on a grassroots level school by school, but this year, thanks to marketing materials and guidance from the Onondaga County Health Department, they have taken off on a larger scale.
“The Sharing Tables create a sense of care and concern for fellow classmates who aim to share, and also tap into the idea of social responsibility, encouraging students to consider food waste is not in the best interest of the school, the city or the planet,” Ms. Murphy said. “Ideally, I would love to see some more education occurring during the lunch time from partner organizations who may want to drive this message home with students around the sharing table. Perhaps if we can bring our students to this understanding and explain the importance of how participating in sharing tables is one way students can help us have a healthier planet, we may be able to move into composting in the cafeterias as well, where students divide out food/paper/plastic when using the garbage!”