As 9-year-old Sabrina Agosto left her school’s lunch line, she dropped her carton of milk on the cafeteria’s “share and donation” table and then snagged an extra yogurt. “I don’t like milk,” explained the fourth grader at Aloma Elementary School in Orange County. “I really like them,” she said of her twin containers of strawberry yogurt.
Lunchtime at Aloma means a steady stream of youngsters putting items they don’t want on the table and picking up extras of things they do like. On a recent afternoon, containers of milk and yogurt, wrapped cheese sticks, and packages of crackers, orange slices and coleslaw all came to and then left the table.
Whatever isn’t picked up by students is donated to a nearby church that gives the food to the homeless. The 2-year-old effort aims to eliminate food waste and to provide extra nutrition both to hungrier kids in the cafeteria and to needy residents in the community.
Aloma is one of about 20 public elementary schools in Orange that have started a so-called share table. Some, like Aloma, donate their excess to charities and others send the food — which cannot, by law, be reused in the lunch program — home with students whose families struggle to make ends meet.
Most of Osceola County’s public elementary schools, and a few in Lake and Seminole counties, run share tables, too, though they don’t all send leftovers to charities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal lunch program, endorsed “share tables” as an “innovative strategy” that food service directors should consider in a June 2016 memo.