The Bulletin Board

How school lunch leftovers could help in hunger fight

By: - April 22, 2021 12:00 pm
A person being served in a cafeteria

House Bill 500 would allow schools to team up with nonprofit programs to take in leftover food and redistribute it. (Getty Images)

New Hampshire lawmakers are hoping to tackle a persistent problem in the state’s schools: leftover school lunch food that goes to waste.

House Bill 500 would allow schools to team up with nonprofit programs to redistribute leftovers. Under the law, schools could repackage perishable meals into frozen meals and send them home on Fridays for students or families who want to participate.

The legislation has bipartisan support. On Thursday, it cleared the Senate as part of the body’s consent calendar, 23-1. Previously, it passed the House by a voice vote.

“This (goes) a long way to solving two problems,” the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Tom Loughman, a Hampton Democrat, said at a Senate Hearing April 13. “It reduces school waste while also addressing child hunger over the weekends.”

Inspired by a program at an Indiana public school, the law would enable schools to help address what’s become a daunting issue.

About one in eight children in New Hampshire struggle with hunger, a 2018 national survey by the advocacy organization Feeding America found. 

Meanwhile, nationwide food waste in schools is projected to be as high as $1.7 billion a year, according to a 2019 report by the World Wildlife Fund, which surveyed a sample of states.

Not having enough food at home has been tied to other harmful conditions for children. A 2019 study by Drexel University found that homes that reported “adverse childhood conditions” – ranging from substance abuse among parents to domestic violence – also had higher probabilities of food insecurity. 

New Hampshire law does not prevent schools from creating or joining such programs, but the bill would provide a statutory framework for them to do so, Loughman said.

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.

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