District to implement Sharing Tables
In October, Deer Lakes School District will join other schools all across the country in creating Sharing Tables at each of its schools to help reduce waste and feed the less fortunate.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than 12 million children in the United States – nearly 18-percent – live in "food insecure" homes. That means those families don't have enough food for every family member to lead a healthy life. This doesn't always mean that there is nothing to eat, but it can mean that children get smaller portions than they need, or parents aren't able to afford nutritious foods.
While food insecurity is harmful to everyone, it is particularly devastating to children. Proper nutrition is critical to a child’s development. Not having enough of the right kinds of food can have serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, academic achievement and future prospects.
Unfortunately, Deer Lakes School District is not immune from this national scourge, which has led to programs like the backpack initiative, run through East Union Presbyterian Church, and which provides meals to district less fortunate families on holidays and weekends.
However, food services director, Jake Douglas believes that more can be done to help feed students during school hours.
“You don’t always see it or really think much about it, but food insecurity is a very real issue, not only here but it every community,” said Douglas. “As food service providers, we are in the unique position of being able to do something to help nourish our students through some very simple measures and that is a responsibility we take very seriously.”
With that in mind, Douglas has created Sharing Tables in each district school where students are encouraged to drop off any unopened food or drink that they don't want, which remains available at the Sharing Table for other students to take food from if they're hungry.
“Anything that’s prepackaged is welcome. We have prepackaged juices, fruits, cereals, graham crackers, milks, pastries, you name it,” said Douglas, adding that any fruit that has a skin is also welcome at the Sharing Table, including such whole fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, pears, etc.
“Studies have consistently shown that students who are hungry tend to struggle in the classroom,” said Douglas. “We want our students to be focused on their academic achievement and programs like this one help us achieve that goal.”
According to Douglas, the new program will also have the added benefit of reducing waste and educating the students on a very important issue.
“This is a win-win for everyone,” said Douglas. “Our students are learning about not wasting food and at the same time they are helping out their classmates who may want or need that food.”
Sharing Tables will be open to all students, so there's no judgement attached to it. That means all kids have access to the food whether their family can afford to eat or not.