Fort Wayne Community Schools students are helping to feed thousands of people in Allen County while preventing thousands of pounds of food from going into the landfill.
The Fort Wayne Community School Food Rescue Program began at Blackhawk Middle School in February, with Lane, Shawnee and Northwood middle schools and Haley Elementary School joining since then. Each day, students return unopened snack items and in-tact fresh fruit that they have chosen not to eat. The items are collected and donated to the Associated Churches Neighborhood Food Network each week.
Since February, the schools have contributed a total of 3,056 pounds of food to Associated Churches. The food was distributed to more than 6,000 people in Allen County using 19 food pantries in Associated Churches Food Network. Each week, the donations from the four schools have grown substantially, starting with 70 pounds per week in February and growing to 528 pounds per week in April.
“We are very happy that this food can be put to good use by Associated Churches,” said Candice Hagar, FWCS Director of Nutrition Services. “While we strive to create menus that students will eat, we know that on any given day there will be students who don’t want some of the food provided. Food Rescue is a great alternative to simply discarding the items.”
Anita Henderson, Blackhawk Middle School cafeteria manager, helped jumpstart the program after noticing the amount of food waste in the school. Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child Nutrition Program, schools cannot reuse food items with students, but the items can be donated to a non-profit organization. Henderson made the connection with Associated Churches to save the food from being wasted.
“These Fort Wayne schools have joined a growing K-12 Food Rescue program, which currently keeps 3 million food items out of landfills each year in Indiana by diverting them into the hands of agencies like Associated Churches,” said John V. Williamson, Executive Director of Food Rescue. “One in six people go hungry, while 40 percent of our food is wasted. Let’s fix it!”
With the success of the program so far, additional schools may join in the future.