By Michael Kelley
Keep ME Current news story
WESTBROOK — In an effort to reduce the amount of trash generated at the high school cafeteria and to help keep students from being hungry throughout the day, school staff last month introduced a Share Table.
“The idea is to feed the students who may need extra food, but also keep it out of the landfill. That is the two-part goal of a Share Table,” said Ragan Hedstrom, a Westbrook High School environmental science teacher who has led the effort.
Hedstrom said students can leave unwrapped food and fruit, such as apples, bananas or oranges, on the table. Students can also place unopened dairy products, such as milk, yogurt or cheese sticks, in the refrigerator on the table.
Most of the donated food comes from lunches served by the school lunch program.
Director of School Nutrition Mary Emerson said the Share Table is a good place for the food that students took from the lunch line that ended up uneaten. It would be thrown out otherwise, she said.
“It’s amazing what we throw out. It is important for us to start with kids who then can educate their parents,” she said.
Emerson said once food leaves the cafeteria line, it can’t be taken back or reused by cafeteria staff.
The Natural Resource Council of Maine indicates the 185,000 students in Maine’s K-12 system produce upwards of 7 million pounds of trash and food scraps every year.
Hedstrom said the idea of the Share Table was brought to the school’s attention by Chrissy Adamowicz, Natural Resources Council of Maine’s sustainable Maine outreach coordinator. The effort, Hedstrom added, would not be possible without the help of her colleagues, including Rachel Somerville, who donated the refrigerator, Wendy Carleton, the school’s head custodian, and the cafeteria staff, who monitor the Share Table.
“This has been the result of collaboration with a lot of people,” Hedstrom said.
Carleton, who has been at the school for 22 years, said the Share Table “helps tremendously” those students who are hungry throughout the day.
Mackenzie Bearor, a junior, said the table makes it “easier for kids who need extra food to get some without being pointed out.” Junior Meghan Horner said the table offers a place to grab a quick snack before she heads to after-school track practice.
With the Share Table up and running, the high school is are about to embark on another project to reduce waste by providing silverware instead of disposable forks, spoons and knives in the cafeteria. The initiative is being funded by a $300 grant from the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The cafeteria, Hedstrom said, goes through hundreds of disposable utensils a day.
Emerson said she would like to start offering the silverware in early February.
The high school will be the second school in the city to do so. Saccarappa School now uses silverware in the cafeteria that was built as part of the school expansion project. Silverware had been piloted at Westbrook Middle School, but the cafeteria went back to plastic utensils after too many pieces of silverware were thrown in the trash.