"Best Practices" Manual For
When Bonnie Goeke-Johnson met with Madison High School students in Madison, Wisconsin, in early 1998 to talk about establishing a food recovery program, she received enthusiastic support. "Student commitment has been key to keeping the project going since its inception," she said. The students are part of an alternative program at Madison East High School called East Higher Ground. The program provides a variety of different learning experiences using classroom, community, and service learning environments. East Higher Ground students recover pre-packaged lunches from ten schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District and deliver them to local feeding organizations.
Bonnie Goeke-Johnson is coordinator of the East Higher Ground Program and also coordinator of the schools food recovery effort. She began her food recovery efforts in January 1998, after the Madison Community Action Coalition facilitated two in-class presentations on local hunger and nutrition needs at the high school. The Coalition operates the Wisconsin Harvest Program, a food gleaning program run by volunteers with an established network of 40 distribution sites throughout the State. The Coalition convinced her that food recovery at the school level was not only technically feasible, but also needed.
East Higher Ground students got involved in the program from the start. "They quickly developed a sense of ownership in the program," said Ms. Goeke-Johnson. The students helped perform an initial assessment of Dane Countys hunger needs. They presented the schools food recovery proposal to the District Superintendent, the District Food Services Coordinator, high school faculty and staff, and leaders of local community feeding organizations. Students provided input into the food recovery project proposal that was sent to USDA. They also sent letters to the elementary and middle schools that feed into the high school asking them to support the program by saving leftover lunches for pick up.
The Madison Community Action Coalition provided initial support and technical expertise. They trained students on hunger issues, sponsored a field trip, and allowed students to shadow them as they recovered and delivered food from other sources. They also identified local community feeding outlets that would accept recovered food, and helped set up the initial meetings between school staff and the outlets.
Ms. Goeke-Johnson drives the 40-mile route with her students to pick up lunches from schools and deliver them directly to community feeding organizations in Madison. Students pick up anywhere between 100-200 leftover pre-packed lunches every Tuesday and Thursday when school is in session from the eight elementary schools and two middle schools that funnel students into Madison East High School. Before they start their bi-weekly route, students call each school to make sure there will be enough leftovers to make a stop worthwhile. The lunches are picked up from each schools cafeteria and put into coolers which are transported by van. They are delivered to the Salvation Army Food Pantry, the Atwood Community Center Food Pantry, the East Madison Community Center, and a walk-in homeless shelter. There the food is distributed to the needy by staff from these organizations.
Madison East High Schools principal was instrumental in obtaining the donation of the used van. USDA project money was used to get the van operational. The project money was also used to purchase a freezer, two refrigerators, disposable aluminum pans for handling recovered food, coolers for transporting food, and other food handling items.
The food recovery project has been successfully integrated into Madison East High Schools curriculum. Students who volunteer for the program receive elective credit towards graduation. "The project teaches students many useful skills such as problem solving, data analysis, and effective communication," said Ms. Goeke-Johnson. "It provides the kind of hands-on experience that is hard to replicate in the confines of a traditional classroom." In addition, University of Wisconsin-Extension Education staff provide periodic age-appropriate nutrition education and food safety training during school science classes.
Ms. Goeke-Johnson has learned several lessons from her experiences as coordinator of the project:
Although the one-year USDA funds for the project ran out in August 1999, momentum has built up and the project continues. "USDA provided the seed money we needed that allowed us to harness our students enthusiasm," said Ms. Goeke-Johnson. "We definitely see this project continuing into the future."
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Last Updated: 09/26/12