Metro area school districts launch pilot program to target food insecurity, waste

FARGO, WEST FARGO AND MOOHREAD PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE TESTING THE SCHOOL LUNCH REPACK PILOT PROGRAM

WEST FARGO, N.D. (KVRR) — A pilot program at Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead Public Schools aims to eliminate food waste by making sure no student goes hungry.

“In the pandemic especially, we have realized there’s a lot of need out there,” said West Fargo Public Schools Director of Food Service Dana Reith.

She says food waste has always been a concern in school cafeterias.

Through the School Lunch Repack Pilot Program, leftover foods like steamed vegetables and pizza slices will be packaged in microwave-safe containers and distributed to students in need through the school’s food pantry.

“On many days, we don’t have much waste at all, but there are certain foods that we aren’t able to reuse or freeze and reheat with good quality in our school lunch programs. I’m hoping those are some of those items that we can use and donate toward the food pantry,” explained Reith.

The month-long pilot program begins Monday.

Each district has designated one school to test out the food pantry, with the hopes of rolling it out to all schools in the future.

West Fargo’s Liberty Middle School will serve as the host facility for the district.

Although she doesn’t anticipate any big challenges, Reith said, “I think there will be a certain amount of staff time to package and assemble them.” 

That’s where community partners like Great Plains Food Bank and United Way of Cass-Clay are especially helpful.

“United Way not only helped really bring a lot of these community partners together and really convene them, we’ve also then financially supported some of the staff time involved with ensuring that they can actually repackage the food,” said Thomas Hill, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Cass-Clay.

“We are always trying to help people understand that this is here,” explained Great Plains Food Bank Program Director Nancy Carriveau. “We understand that people fall on hard times and people need support, and that’s what we’re here for.” 

Data from Feeding America shows that 9.1 percent of children are food insecure in Cass County. 

Fifty-one percent of the county participates in the Supplemental Nutrition & Assistance Program.

The School Lunch Repack Pilot Program will close the first week of April.

Each school’s food pantry will continue to distribute the frozen, repacked meals through the end of the year or until they are all claimed. 

As two of the pilot’s community partners, the Great Plains Food Bank and United Way of Cass-Clay will collect data from all three districts during the four weeks. 

At the end of the program, data will be evaluated to determine the pilot’s reach and impact on the community.

Meal containers are donated by Power Plate Meals.

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Categories: Community, Local News, Minnesota News, Moorhead, North Dakota News