TOP launched a Low Waste Policy with our dedicated Hunger Relief Heroes to get more food into kiddos' bellies and to help support a healthier planet for our kids to thrive. Together, TOP and our Hunger Relief Heroes work together to ensure that we are not over-ordering meals or throwing away perfectly good food.
TOP has also opted into USDA waivers allowing meal program flexibility that helps reduce waste. For example, typically a child would have to take all 5 components of a meal (fruit, vegetable, protein, grain & milk) and throw away anything they do not want to eat. The Offer Versus Serve waiver requires kids to pick only 3 of the 5 components, so the other 2 do not end up in the trash.
We are also utilizing Share Tables (with Covid precautions in mind aligned with site-based policies) to lessen our carbon footprint. Any item that a child does not want to eat gets placed on a Share Table. After everyone has been served a meal, the kiddos can pick and choose as many extras from the Share Table that they would like to eat! The feedback from youth is that they are excited to have the option to have more fresh food available to them because they don’t often have that option when they get home each day. Adults in the program appreciate the Share Table option because it allows for less waste and the ability to learn what kids like and don’t like to continue to improve menu options with our vendor partners.
What we have learned since launching the Low Waste Policy in Fall 2021 is that it increases communication and open discussion between all Hunger Relief Hero stakeholders. Our conversations are more frequent, more positive, more constructive, and ultimately support keeping high quality options on the table - quite literally - for the youth we serve. Shout out to our partner sites who give us consistent feedback and work with us to keep waste low and kids smiling! Also, thank you to our vendors who continue to stay flexible with enrollment changes, menu ideas, and food sourcing/delivery during trying supply chain times!
Our collaborative efforts have sent significantly less food waste to landfills! It’s a win-win for people and the planet!