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Excess into Access

The holidays are here and so are all the heavy trays of treats, containers filled with cookies, and warm comfort foods of the season. When the festivities wind down, where does this extra food go? 

Worldwide, one-third of food produced for people to eat is lost or wasted, according to the World Food Programme. The amount of food we make but don’t eat is enough to feed two billion people. That’s more than double the number of people who are undernourished around the globe. 

This unfortunate reality is happening right here in our backyard. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, up to 40% of our food supply is going into the trash. As a community organization focused on nourishing children, we are determined to work alongside schools to reduce our collective waste — down to every food serving packed in a Sack Supper! 

We strive to include a variety of healthy, nutritious items in our meals, but we know that not every student is going to like every item, every day. When that happens, we encourage students to share those items using the Give + Take system!  

This system is unique for each school, starting with where the Give + Take location lives. It may be a table, a drawer, a bucket or even a shelf! Once the location is set, the methodology is simple; students give what they don’t want from their meal and take what they do want to eat. 

“In the past, these items would have been left behind on playgrounds and in hallways or thrown away by students. Instead of wasting food, the Give + Take system provides all kids a safe, dependable place to leave and find healthy food throughout the day,” said Haley Schaner, manager of the KFB Nourish program. 

The Give + Take system empowers students to share resources to support their peers, keeping good food out of the garbage. When KFB’s education team comes to a classroom, they see the immediate impact of each school’s unique take on the Give + Take system. 

“Students feel ownership maintaining their Give + Take system. After collecting the food, they often take a few items themselves for their own snack that day. The Give + Take system teaches kids responsibility while reducing food waste,” said Stephanie McNitt, education and engagement specialist in Kids’ Food Basket Learn program.

Give+Take table at Burton Elementary.

Students can’t control their school schedules, but this system gives them access to resources that will fuel their focus in the classroom. Educators utilize their Give + Take location during school, using healthy snacks to sustain students’ focus between an early lunchtime and the end of the school day.

The impact extends beyond school walls.

“I have had two families this year that have trusted me enough to share about the food insecurity… [they’re experiencing],” a local educator told KFB.  

That educator used their school’s Give + Take system to help. 

“I received messages from both families sharing how thankful they were that [someone] would take the time and not throw anything out [that could be eaten]. They said it truly made a huge difference,” the educator said. 

From Kent County to Ottawa, Allegan and Muskegon counties, we are dedicated to making sure community resources go farther than one meal for local families. Together, we can empower generations to turn excess into access!  

How you can help at home: 

  • Store food the way you found it in the store – Refrigerated foods go in your refrigerator and room temperature foods stay out. 
  • Compost your food scraps – What you don’t eat now, can grow into beautiful soil for future use. Here’s a video to get started! 
  • Water your produce – Vegetables that come in stalks, such as broccoli, celery and asparagus, will stay fresher longer if you keep their stems in water. Avoid watering leafy greens and herbs, which will decompose quicker when wet. 
  • Freeze and store extra produce and prepared food – Save what you didn’t eat to enjoy another time. Here are some of our favorite preservation methods.  

How you can help at KFB: 

  • Donate Wish List items — We collect any brand of fruit cups or pouches, pudding cups, meat sticks, Cheerios, pretzels, cheese crackers and 8 lb or XL brown lunch bags. If you have extra of these at home that you don’t plan to use, KFB would greatly appreciate it! 
  • Volunteer to pack donated food into meals – Without helping hands, donated food would not get to students. You make this important work possible! Sign up with your favorite people to pack nourishing meals for our community.  

Other ways KFB is helping:

KFB is committed to being better than the day before. Here are additional ways we are working to reduce waste and close our circle of sustainability, with the help of volunteers: 

  • Packaging more food servings with environmentally friendly wax and paper wrapping. 
  • Collecting food waste from schools to compost into rich soil for the farm. 
  • Composting produce that doesn’t pass inspection. 
  • Instituting an internal sorting system for items that can be composted or recycled.