"Best Practices" Manual For
A local church food pantry is the latest beneficiary of the Food Recovery Project at Clarenden County School District Two. When Ms. Mary Graham, District Director of Food Services learned about the USDA food recovery and gleaning projects, she networked with other professionals to determine how the District could expand beyond what they were already doing - - providing small amounts of food to the county jail.
Ms. Graham identified an organization in the community that needed help - - the Saint Marys Catholic Church food pantry ministry. After receiving her funds from USDA, Ms. Graham prepared a written agreement with this group. The agreement outlined the churchs responsibility and stressed they would be held harmless from lawsuits under the terms of the Good Samaritan Act.
An early stumbling block to expanding food recovery was the short supply of food. The School Districts five schools generate a minimum amount of leftovers. Ms. Graham was surprised to discover that the project made food service staff even more conscientious about waste. "If some other agency can use it - - then we can too" was their philosophy. To remedy this, the program solicited donations from local businesses. Although many were hesitant to get involved for fear of possible lawsuits, a local truck stop and a produce market agreed to donate leftovers on a regular basis. St. Marys food pantry offered its bulk purchases from the Harvest Hope Food Bank and started sending them to the Manning High School kitchen to be transformed, along with recovered food, into cold plated dinners for pantry clients. USDA funds paid for some of the food service labor involved in the project as well as transportation costs, supplies, and program promotion materials.
During the school year, food service drivers recover leftovers from District schools as they drive their regular routes. They also periodically pick up leftovers from the truck stop and produce market. The food is taken back to the Manning High School kitchen. Student volunteers from the high school and middle school and paid food service staff transform the food into delicious and wholesome meals.
Saint Marys Church receives some 240 cold plated dinners two Thursdays each month. Student volunteers not only help prepare the meals, they also help distribute them to clients at the pantry. The meals are made from a combination of recovered food and food that is bulk purchased by the pantry and given to the project. The food is transformed into many wholesome and delicious meals. "Its like the miracle of the loaves and fishes," said Fran Pletl of the Saint Marys Food Pantry. Before the food recovery project went into effect, clients at the pantry received only canned goods and staples. Now they also take home a chilled plated dinner for each person in their family.
Great care is taken to ensure that sound food handling practices and HACCP concepts are followed from start to finish. Food safety procedures start at the point of food recovery. Food service staff provide volunteer students with hands-on training in food preparation and safe food handling techniques. Drivers transport the chilled dinners in insulated containers to St. Marys pantry at below 40 degrees and adhere closely to the delivery and receiving schedule. Food temperatures are kept constant by use of blue ice packs. Each food pantry client is told to store the food in the refrigerator until dinner time and re-heat it well before eating
Many people do not know what food recovery means and have no real knowledge of how widespread hunger really is. To raise hunger consciousness, the project funded a short video that illustrates what they do. It is used as part of a hunger awareness lesson in some classes at Manning High School. The South Carolina Education Television Network broadcasts the video regularly.
After a year, the expanded program has gained momentum. Support from the School Superintendent and the Board of Trustees has allowed the project to continue after USDA funds ran out. Two members of the District food service staff operate the project at minimal cost with very little day-to-day involvement from Ms. Graham. The labor needed is provided by a combination of student volunteers, food service staff, and paid senior citizens. Money to cover future program costs will come from the School District catering fund.
Ms. Graham would like to see food recovery become part of the school curriculum. The County Cooperative Extension Service and some student club sponsors have expressed an interest in working to increase student awareness of hunger issues in the classroom. The program also has the potential to become a service learning project at the middle and high school level.
District Director of Food Services Mary Graham has several pointers that she can pass on from her experience coordinating the project:
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Last Updated: 09/26/12