Food reuse program by district worth replicating

A greater percentage of the Bartholomew County population is living in poverty, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data, so it’s no surprise that more of them find themselves in situations where they do not know where their next meal is coming from.

Fortunately, multiple local organizations are lending a hand to those who need assistance. Among them are:

Love Chapel, with its food pantry

The two Columbus high schools, with their food pantries

The Salvation Army, which is providing a soup kitchen program during the noon lunch hour Monday through Friday

And events such as the 18th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, coming up Feb. 6, continue to support efforts to make sure no people go hungry.

In addition to all that, the effort to help the hungry has received an important boost from the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

During the fall semester, the school district launched its “No Thank You Table” program as a way to prevent unwanted food from going to waste. The program was initiated after district Food Services Director Nancy Millspaugh learned that state health officials had eased restrictions on sharing food among students.

Here’s how it works:

Students can place items on the “no thank you” table they do not want to eat. The most common items are milk, juice, cereal, yogurt, fruits and vegetables.

Students have a chance to take unwanted food off the table for themselves.

The remaining food is donated to Love Chapel.

Students were donating about 53 gallons of milk per week by the end of last semester. About 2,000 pounds total of unwanted food was donated by students during the fall semester — a sizable amount that was put to good use rather than go wasted.

Millspaugh deserves kudos for identifying an opportunity to benefit hungry residents, and the students are to be commended for their level of participation.

The program has tremendous benefits and is one that other school districts should consider copying and implementing, if they have not already.