Since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, many school districts have experienced a drastic increase in both fruit and vegetable consumption and waste. In an effort to decrease food waste and food cost, the USDA provided guidance on the use of Share Tables for Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs). Share Tables are intended to provide a designated place where students can put food items from the School Nutrition meals they do not wish to consume, allowing other students to take the unwanted items at no cost. It provides more food to hungry students while simultaneously incorporating waste reduction strategies. Additionally, Child Nutrition Programs may recycle food or beverages for their own program and/or donate to other non-profit organizations. The USDA Guidance outlines general guidelines; however, the CNP is responsible for adhering to their State health and local food safety codes.
In 2014, Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD) partnered with the City of Oceanside to become the first school district in the Nation to commit to the goal of Zero Waste. Through the adoption of the OUSD Zero Waste Resolution in 2014, OUSD is working to reach a goal of 75% recycling rate by 2020. To reach this goal, the City and OUSD are systematically and strategically implementing this program to educate and instill zero waste behaviors in all students and staff. Naomi Shadwell (Director of Nutrition Services) and Catherine Slomka (Nutrition Services Manager) partnered with the City to collaborate and create the design for the Share Table. The tables were funded by the City of Oceanside and are now being used at all 23 school sites. The Share Tables are monitored by Nutrition Services employees or a designated school employee to ensure only permissible items are placed on the table. Since implementing Share Tables, Oceanside has decreased food waste, increased food recovery, and decreased food cost while providing students with increased access to healthy food.