‘Share tables’ help hungry students in Cumberland schools

Published 6:17 am Monday, December 18, 2023

If you’re a hungry student in Cumberland County schools, the district has set up a way to help. You don’t have to ask anyone, you don’t have to feel embarrassed. You can just go to one of the share tables and get something to eat.

According to Margaret Dawson, the nutrition coordinator for Cumberland schools, Child Nutrition Standards have certain requirements that school cafeterias have to follow. This includes at least one half-cup serving of fruits or vegetables with every school breakfast and lunch for the meal to be counted as reimbursable. 

Since schools are dealing with children and teenagers who don’t always prioritize fruit and vegetables in their diet, officials are seeing a lot of waste as these items are untouched but still going in the trash. To help stop this needless waste, Cumberland joined in to create a share table for these unwanted items. 

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“We noticed that whole fruit, sealed fruit cups and bottled water were being thrown away,” said Dawson. “We created signage and found a cart, placing it where the students can easily access it in November.”

What are share tables? 

On their way to sit down, students pass the cart and can easily leave or take any of these items on the share tables. This way students don’t have to worry about drawing extra attention to themselves if they want to leave or take something. Students can freely leave what they don’t want or take something extra. 

After only a few weeks the table seems to be a success. Dawson noted that many students have commented how they appreciate the table as an alternative to wasting so much food. At the end of meal times, the table will have a few items that weren’t claimed. However, it’s always empty the next morning as athletes take advantage of the table to get a snack in the afternoon. 

“It’s great to see students putting items on the table instead of throwing it away, but it is even better to see someone take what they need off the table,” said Dawson.

With the help of the share table, students are learning to be waste conscious when it comes to their food. This is an opportunity for students to learn that just small, easy changes can help the environment by reducing waste and their classmates by providing extra food.