Leftover School Meals Will Feed LA’s Hungry

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May 29, 2011; Source: Los Angeles Times | Ever wonder what happens to uneaten school meals? Before you answer that question, feast on news of this program being introduced in the Los Angeles School Unified District. Under a plan unveiled last week, the school district will donate up to 21,000 uneaten meals a day to nonprofits that feed the hungry.

According to the Los Angeles Times, LA Unified serves 650,000 meals a day at 1,000 locations. When cafeteria managers overestimate kids' appetites or because of federal guidelines that sometimes require students be served more than they want to eat, schools can be left with uneaten entrees, fruit, vegetables, milk, and other items that typically get discarded.

For the nonprofits slated to receive the food, it's like manna from heaven. "Our hearts are big, but the means are dwindling every day," said Osas Otasowie, community outreach specialist for the Mission City Community Network in Inglewood, which feeds 276 families a month. Nonprofits that want the food will first fill out an application and indicate a school campus they would prefer as their partner. Once the district's food services determines the best match, the nonprofit works out an arrangement with the school's cafeteria manager for pickups.

School officials credit the idea for the donation program to a city resident who asked a school board member why uneaten food was discarded. Not only is the district getting credit for doing what its head of food services, Dennis Barrett says is the "right thing to do," Linda Hess, who runs Urban Harvester, which works to connect donors and organizations in need, describes it as a "phenomenal program . . . so forward-thinking."—Bruce Trachtenberg