"Best Practices" Manual For
"We were taught as youngsters not to waste food," said Dr. H. Lawrence Jones, Superintendent of the Ohio County Public School District. This philosophy is the driving force behind the Ohio County School Districts food recovery program. The program is a partnership between the school system, The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, and Ohio Valley Harvest. The partnership allows excess food from school cafeterias, that would otherwise be discarded, to be given to organizations that feed the needy.
The Ohio County School District is located in West Virginias northern panhandle. It serves over 4,600 breakfasts and lunches per day to school children in the greater Wheeling, West Virginia, area. Hot meals are prepared in two central kitchens- - in the Districts high school and the other in an elementary school. Meals are distributed daily by vans to the other 12 schools within the system. During the summer, the District also provides 800 meals to children at feeding sites in churches, schools, youth centers, and housing developments.
"The School Districts food recovery program started in 1994," said Jim Freeland, contact person for the program and District Administrator for Child Nutrition. The programs success resulted in the Ohio County School District being selected to receive funds from USDA through a cooperative agreement. The funds are being used to publicize the school districts efforts and increase awareness within the community of the need for food recovery. The District was instrumental in sponsoring State legislation that allowed schools to pilot food recovery efforts within the State. "At first," said Dr. Jones, "We were concerned that donations could generate adverse publicity. We didnt want to give people the impression we were purposely preparing too much food." To address this problem, the District developed news releases explaining the initiative and met with the local news media. "When you are preparing daily meals for such a large number of children theres bound to be some food left over," said Jones. "Its impossible to know exactly how many meals will be eaten every day. We always want to have enough food to serve that last child in line, so we sometimes have excess."
Food still on steam tables after meals are served doesnt go to waste in Ohio County. Felicia Harto, Cafeteria Manager for the County schools, uses her 34 years of experience in the School Districts kitchens to help her decide what to do with whats left. She reuses what she can, and sets aside whats left for the local soup kitchen. She refrigerates the food in plastic containers provided by Ohio Valley Harvest, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the soup kitchen. "We were a bit hesitant about giving the food away at first," she said. "But weve had no problems, its really no extra work." She describes the program as "a total success." Her motto: "Why throw good food away?"
Three times a week, volunteers from Ohio Valley Harvest call Felicia to see if she has any food. "Sometimes we dont have much to give them, but they never complain," she said. "Theyll come for half a container of food." The volunteers use their own cars to pick up donations. They deliver the food directly to the soup kitchen located on the first floor of the YWCA in downtown Wheeling. "The logistics of picking up can be complicated," said Mike Cox, a retired accountant and regular soup kitchen volunteer. He picks up food from all over the greater Wheeling area. "Sometimes we have problems finding volunteers to help pick up, but we always manage somehow," he said.
At the soup kitchen, the donations from the school system are added to the daily menu. The menu also includes commodities donated by USDA, and food donated by area businesses such as caterers, retail food chains, and wholesalers. The soup kitchen uses these donations to provide an average of 200 hot lunches and cold packed suppers to Wheeling area needy every day. "The School District donations have been a big help," said Althea Burns, Executive Director of The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling. "We can get several hundred meals out of what they give us some weeks," said Burns.
There is a heightened awareness of food recovery in Ohio County these days. Ohio County Schools Superintendent Jones attributes part of this awareness to the food recovery program. "A stronger ethic of sharing leftover food seems to be developing," he said. The District and State Department of Education have fostered this ethic by developing a curriculum designed to increase student consciousness about social issues related to food recovery. Some of the students at the schools are even volunteering to help at the soup kitchen. According to Jones, "When functions are held in this area and there is food left over, its more common now to hear people say- - dont throw it out- - take it to the soup kitchen."
Top of Page | Table of Contents
PDF Adobe Arobat Version of Report
FD Home Page | FNS Home Page | USDA Home Page
Last Updated: 04/01/08