A Share Table program to serve children in need is now implemented across Waxahachie ISD campuses.
“Share Tables” allow students to place their unopened and unwanted food items, such as milk, on a designated table where they’re available to others wanting an extra serving. Besides beverages, food items like whole fruit or pre-packaged shelf-stable items also can be shared.
The program was initially piloted at Clift Elementary to allow the district the opportunity to work out logistics and guidelines before expanding to all students, from pre-K to high school.
Though the program has just completed its first weeks of operation districtwide, “all campuses have far exceeded our expectations, both giving and receiving,” district child nutrition director Kam Bridgers told the Sun. “Items donated rarely remain on the Share Table for any length of time. We are very pleased and consider the program a complete success thus far.”
Share Tables have two key benefits: no cost to recipients and reduced food waste for the district. Both are good reasons for WISD to get the program up and going.
“Our district attempted the Share Table program years ago but the city code at that time did not allow for us to implement the program,” Bridgers said, noting the district’s interest didn’t abate, however.
In the meantime, the city of Waxahachie adopted the Texas Food Establishment Rules and, when Bridgers checked again with the city, there were no longer any regulations that would prevent a Share Table program being implemented.
In fact, Share Tables are encouraged by the Texas Department of Agriculture; they just have to be set up in compliance with USDA guidelines and district policy.
Each WISD campus’ Share Table has baskets for unwanted fruit and packaged non-perishable items and a table top refrigerator for beverages, such as milk. The refrigerators cost $213.06 each and were able to be paid for as an allowable expense out of the district’s child nutrition funds.
“The students at all schools took to the Share Tables exceptionally well, from pre-k to grade 12,” Bridgers said of the districtwide rollout. “They were all ‘shining stars’ [and] we expect this program to only get better as time goes by. Students will learn exactly how the program works to benefit themselves and their friends.”
The district campuses are utilizing several means of spreading word about the program, including daily announcements and a video, to ensure students understand what Share Tables are, whether they’re placing unwanted items there instead of in the trash or they’re picking up an extra item if they want another serving. Bridgers said she wouldn’t be surprised to see each campus come up with a creative name or decorations for their tables.
It seems, though, that students are already getting the message of “Let’s not feed the trash cans, let’s feed our tummies,” as Bridgers describes it.
“This program is definitely a win-win for Waxahachie ISD and everyone involved,” Bridgers said. “Giving and receiving, our students are becoming a community.”
She shared how she saw one student pay 75 cents for an extra pack of apple slices he could place on the table for someone else to enjoy. And the sense of community has extended to there being no sense of shame for those wanting another serving because they’re still hungry.
“Students have no hesitation going to the table for extra milk or food items,” Bridgers said. “There seems to be no shortage of willing participants. The program has already succeeded in the area of lowering food waste, which in turn makes food available to students who may want or need it.”
During January’s school board meeting, when trustees approved a policy for the Share Table program, interim superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain praised Bridgers’ efforts, saying, “Kim has just embraced this. She has a heart for our kids and doesn’t want any child to go hungry.”
Community members who would like to support the program by contributing toward items, such as milk (which Bridges said is the most popular item), for placement on the Share Tables are encouraged to contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.