Since November 2017, Rocky River Elementary School has donated over 2,500 pounds of food to Cooperative Christian Ministry through the Food Bus Learning Service Project.
Liz Benstead, civic engagement and service-learning coordinator, noticed many students were throwing away unopened/unused food after lunches. The mission of the Food Bus Project, which was founded by Kathleen Dietrich, is to promote food recovery for the sale of alleviating hunger by collecting unused and unopened food leftover from school lunches and distributing it to food banks and pantries.
The United States Department of Agriculture schools may glean the unopened food that leaves the cafeteria line. President Clinton signed the Bill Emerson Federal Gleaning Law in 1996, allowing schools to glean and donate. The only federal requirement by the USDA is that schools must have a separate refrigerator within the cafeteria to store the food.
Benstead secured a grant from Truliant Bank which allowed the school to purchase extra refrigerators.
Every day during lunches Rocky River students glean leftover food and store it in a separate fridge. Every Thursday third graders county, learn how to change ounces into pounds, graph the results and deliver it to the food bank.
For Global Youth Service Day, all fourth graders were challenged to write a persuasive letter inviting Gov. Roy Cooper to come and see the Food Bus Project in action.
“I hope one day we can end hunger by having all schools participate in the Food Bus Program that we have done at Rocky River Elementary in Concord,” fourth graders Sydney Lyon write in her letter.” You would be amazed at how much food we have donated since November. I feel proud of myself because I helped donate some of the food and I am happy that other people have food.”
Benstead said the average amount of food collected per week is about 120 pounds and she estimated by the end of this year students will have donated over 3,000 pounds of food.
Her goal is that every school in Cabarrus County, and eventually the state, will begin participating in this program.