So what happens when you mix statutorily-limited caloric intake with kids undergoing a growth spurt?
“They’re hungry. They want more to eat,” said Monticello’s Washington Elementary School Principal Nancy Rosenbery.
That mindset led to the establishment of a “share table” in the lunchroom. The idea is simple: The fourth and fifth graders can leave a food item for someone else to eat later. It is limited to sealed items, so leaving chicken nuggets is a no-no.
Students also need to have a happy plate before being permitted more food.
“We don’t want them eating just animal crackers for lunch, or a bunch of cheese. They have to eat a majority of food before we’ll let them get up,” added Rosenbery.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires schools receiving federal lunch program funds to provide a certain amount of fruit, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates. In the case of Washington kids, it is usually done in 550 to 650 calories.
But just because kids are required to take the food does not necessarily mean they will eat it all. So Washington lunchroom staff are trying to salvage at least a portion of what previously would have ended up in the garbage.
“Some kids, this is their best meal of the day,” said special education aide Lana Hupp, who is the lunchroom supervisor for the first quarter. “We knew there was a lot of food being thrown away that somebody might eat. So, this is well worth it. Somebody is going to eat it.”
So far, so good said Rosenbery, who said the share table started on Sept. 3.
“Most days there are only a couple of things left on the share table,” she said.
The effort has also reduced the number of students pleading for more.
“They’re growing, and they’re still hungry when lunch is over, and a lot of times kids last year would say ‘can I have some more food.’ Unfortunately I haven’t been able to offer that for them,” she said. “This gives them a little extra each day.”
The share table is also limited to those who buy a hot lunch in the cafeteria.