Food Rescue Program Pilot Begins at Diamond Middle School

Food Rescue Signatories

On January 2, Diamond Middle School began piloting the Lexington Public School’s Food Rescue Program, which will aid in reducing food waste while helping tackle the issue of food insecurity. The program is anticipated to expand district-wide in the future, pending the outcome of the pilot program. In Massachusetts alone, 616,090 people struggle with hunger and 159,950 are children according to Feeding America’s 2019 numbers.

The program’s objective is to “repurpose” untainted, well-preserved foods by donating them to nearby food pantries, soup kitchens or shelters as needed. Food Link, out of Arlington, will be picking up the food and distributing it for donation.

The Food Rescue Program is a collaborative effort by Whitson’s Food Services staff, school staff, Lexington Public Schools Green Teams (LPSGT) parent volunteers, Food Link, and the Lexington Office of Public Health.

The Office of Public Health has thoughtfully guided the development of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to ensure the program is consistent with applicable federal, state, and local food safety regulations. Additionally, they are the enforcement agent overseeing food safety for the program. Public Health oversight will include steps to prevent food-borne illness, accidental food allergy reactions, and other hazards from contamination.

This SOP will be piloted in January 2020 for a two-month period at Diamond Middle School. This pilot program will inform the expansion of the program to other sites in the future. The expansion will be determined based on further evaluation and discussion with Whitson’s, LPSGT, and the Office of Public Health, with approval from the Board of Health. The Lexington Board of Health is the authority that approved this pilot program.

School staff & LPSGT parent volunteers will work with students to familiarize them with the program by teaching them how to properly preserve the food, and explaining the importance of reducing food waste.  The Lexington Office of Public Health has approved the training protocols for school staff.

In 2014, the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection established a commercial organics food waste ban, applicable to commercial food establishments and processors producing more than 1 ton of food waste per week. Although public schools generating less than 1 ton of food waste per week are not mandated to divert food waste through this ban, we will now be ahead of the curve should the state commercial waste ban expand to include smaller generators of food waste.

*Pictured left to right: Melissa Steinberg - Assistant Food Service Director, Whitson's Food Services, Kevin Silvia - Food Service Director, Whitson's Food Services; Tina McBride & Natalie Cohen - LPS Green Teams; Kari Sasportas - Public Health Director; Kammy Demello - Health Agent; Jennifer Turner, Diamond Middle School Principal; Brent Lo of Food Link; Julie Hackett, Superintendent of Schools.