Student plan to donate extra food may be in vain

By: Phil Levin Email
By: Phil Levin Email

Students planning to donate extra lunch food may have to cancel their idea of conservation.

New federal rules this year require schools feed students at least three food items at lunch, one of which must be either a fruit or vegetable. Staff at Glacier Edge Elementary School in Verona say this led to an increase in untouched food ending up in the garbage.

"Because we have breakfast for the whole school we were winding up with a lot more waste than we've ever had before because we were required to throw it away," said Head Cook Sherrol Yurs.

The staff and students decided to collect extra food to donate at a local food pantry, but the state says the program may have to stop. Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction says it encourages donations of extra food only if it was not served to students.

"Because the sanitary condition of food product cannot be assured once it is served to and taken away by students, we direct local school meal programs to not collect those items for re-use, and instead ask that they be properly disposed," said Patrick Gasper at DPI.

The amount of food schools serve to students depends on their age. In high school DPI says the new federal regulations mean students must be offered five items of food but can decline up to two of them as long as they eat fruits or vegetables. At the elementary school level schools can decide whether to require all kids take all five items or allow them the freedom offered high school students.

DPI staff say they are working on an updated clarification to be sent to schools about what they can and cannot do with extra food.

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