Saving perfectly good food from the trash

MERCED, Calif.

Hundreds of kids eat lunch at Merced's Rivera Middle School every day, and a lot of the leftovers used to end up in the trash.

Principal Brian Ferguson said, "When I first got here I saw how much was wasted, it was heart-wrenching for me."

But not anymore. The school has now launched a program that allows kids to put any un-eaten, un-opened food and drinks on a "sharing tray," for other students to enjoy.

Alli Ferguson said, "Not only there will be people here who want food, but there are people who need food."

Principal Ferguson said, "Just the fact they can see there are other students in need and say I can be there to help, I think that's a really positive thing."

Even the leftovers the kids don't eat still go to good use. At the end of each meal, staff members safely store the extra food, and one of the Merced city school district's refrigerated trucks later takes it to this warehouse.

It's then picked up by the D Street Homeless Shelter and the Merced Rescue Mission.

Rev. Phil Schmauss said, "That food donation is what we're putting in our to-go lunches for our clientele here at the mission, so it's helping us greatly."

Nutrition Services Director Terri Soares helped launch the sharing tray program. It's now being implemented at all 17 of the district's cafeterias. She's also using a new computer program to track which food students eat the most and least.

Soares said, "So I was able to menu plan and look at the top ten entrees, the top 20 entrees and really better meet the student's needs."

It's all part of a plan to reduce waste, while helping those who need it most.

Janet Dunaway said, "It makes me feel really proud that we're doing something to help the community."

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