By DC Food Project
We want to tell you a story. Towards the end of the last school year, we were talking with one of the teachers where our children attend. It had been another great year at the school, the community was stronger and more engaged than ever and we were all getting ready for the summer. The conversation turned, however, when we learned that the teacher was using their own money to put food into one of the children’s backpacks. This child did not have enough to eat over the weekend when school-provided breakfast and lunch were unavailable. The idea that kids in our school did not have enough food to eat when they went home for the weekend struck a nerve. And it turns out there are more kids facing this challenge than we realized. That conversation led to more conversations with parents, who were equally as shocked as we were.
We decided to do something about it: we started DC Food Project.
Over the past few months, DC Food Project has been working with school administrators, local organizations, DCPS, amongst others, to develop a Weekend Bag Program that discreetly sends food home over the weekends for children who qualify. With over 300 bags of food sent home since we launched last fall, we have already begun seeing the positive impact this kind of program has for families who need that extra help. With two more schools slated to adopt this program for next school year, our team is looking forward to learning how to most effectively scale and how this can work across DC schools.
What has been incredibly exciting and in a way, one of the more unanticipated learnings from the Weekend Bag Program, has been for our team to understand how school meals work — and with that, witnessing first hand the amount of food waste that takes place. If children are going home hungry or don’t have enough food at school, you have to ask yourself – how can we bridge the gap between food waste and food insecurity?
So, in conjunction with the Weekend Bag Program, our team has launched a Share Table Program, where students can place unopened and/or sealed foods that they choose not to eat during school breakfast and lunch in a basket, providing an opportunity for other students to take additional helpings of food that would otherwise be thrown away. Working with DCPS’ Food and Nutrition Services Team and seeking guidance from DGS, the Share Table Program is up and running in 5 DC Public Schools with 15-20 more slated for this school year.
It’s a lot — but exciting — with hopes to have a positive impact in our city. If children come to school not feeling hungry, excited to learn and not worried about their next meal — then, we’ve done something right.
Thanks for reading this far — and please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, ideas, thoughts and anything else…
To donate and/or to learn more, please visit www.dcfoodproject.org
The DC Food Project Team
Alysa, Katie, Krista & Lucie