"Best Practices" Manual For
The USDA funds awarded to the Lawrence Union Free School District in Lawrence, New York were used to purchase equipment and supplies and to develop a series of educational tools promoting food recovery efforts in schools. These are activities that fit right into an existing and well-established food rescue program. The school district operates in partnership with Five Towns Community Center and the "Rock and Wrap It Up! School Program" to collect leftover food from each school twice a week and deliver it to the center. In fact, soft-sided food transport containers were one of the purchases made with the USDA project money. These lighter, more manageable containers facilitate food delivery for the volunteer students and staff members; they are also permanent equipment, eliminating the cost of replacement.
The "Rock and Wrap It Up! School Program" is the basis of the Lawrence partnership. This program was started in 1991 when Syd Mandelbaum, now a Lawrence Board of Education trustee, conceived the idea of rescuing leftover food from backstage after local rock concerts. He learned that concert caterers contracts prohibits running out of food, a rule which often resulted in many pounds of leftover food being wasted. Mr. Mandelbaum arranged to pick up food after one concert and deliver it to an organization that served the needy, thus planting the seed for a program that has grown to global proportions in the ensuing years.
In 1997, Lawrence was one of the first school systems nationwide to begin a process of collecting and distributing its unused food from school meals to those in need. For the period November 1998 to June 1999 the program delivered 1,178 pounds of prepared food to the Five Towns Community Center, which serves families and senior citizens. "I have been very impressed with the level of support our program has received from the students and staff of Lawrence," said Mr. Mandelbaum. "Their efforts last year enabled the Community Center to distribute 100 to 200 meals every week, using food that may have otherwise been discarded."
The Lawrence School District, Five Towns Community Center, and the "Rock and Wrap It Up!" partnership meet at least quarterly to review and monitor their activities and budget and to discuss their short- and long-term goals. The goals they set for using the USDA project funds included development of curriculum guidelines for creation of grade-appropriate lesson plans and marketing materials to help recruit student volunteers; an instructional and marketing video, also for the purpose of recruiting student participation; and development of a method for data collection and tracking. These activities were in addition to the normal resumption of the program in schools that participated the previous year in the food collection efforts.
The school districts newsletter, The Lawrence Xpress, featured a full-page story about the ongoing food collection efforts and the USDA project. This story and corresponding press releases to the local media served to heighten awareness in the community of the food recovery activities. Marketing their idea is one of the groups continuing long-term goals.
Lawrence students and staff members were very pleased to be invited to present their efforts at the National School Board Association Conference in San Francisco in April, 1999, where they distributed 500 copies each of the 22-page "Rock and Wrap It Up!" curriculum. The curriculum, which contains guidelines for food recovery, have been incorporated into classroom activities. The instructional and marketing video which was produced jointly by the Lawrence Public Schools and "Rock and Wrap It Up!" was also distributed at the conference. The video will be made available to other school districts and organizations interested in starting a food recovery and gleaning program, as outlined in one of the groups long-term goals. Additionally, the group successes also include completion of a new project at one school in the district and ongoing implementation of new projects at three others. Also, volunteers were recruited and trained for the 1999-2000 school year, and worksheets were developed for tracking and monitoring program data collection.
As outlined in the "Rock and Wrap It Up! School Program" curriculum, Lawrence students share their food recovery educational materials with attendees at rock concerts as a means of building awareness of hunger in the community and encouraging new programs in other areas of the country. They are continuing their efforts to recruit local summer camps in the area, when school food recovery would not be going on, to participate in the program. This effort has been less successful than others, but the group continues to work at it. They have a monthly newsletter, Wrapping It Up tm and a website. In fact, another way to help feed the needy is to purchase CDs of participating bands through their website.
Lawrences efforts have earned national recognition, including coverage on MTV and Time Magazine for Kids. Today, the organization collects food from nearly every major concert in the United States and abroad, distributing more than 3 million meals worldwide. Their ideas are truly innovative, and the success of their program can be held up as a model for other school districts to follow.
The Lawrence District offers the following guidelines for starting a food recovery program in your school:
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Last Updated: 09/26/12