Food Rescue Program

LPS Food Rescue Program Reboots and Expands


Three years ago, a few months before the COVID pandemic shut down LPS schools, a Food Rescue Program Pilot was started at Diamond Middle School (see article below from January 2020).

Now, that same partnership between Whitsons Food Services staff, LPS staff, LPS Green Team parent volunteers, Food Link, and the Lexington Office of Public Health, has been working since the fall of 2022 to reboot and expand the program.

The program is now running at LHS and Clarke and Diamond Middle Schools, and introduces new share fridges.

Sometimes students opt not to eat items provided in their school-provided meals. Food and drinks that are in sealed containers (or whole fruit) can be placed in the food share fridges located in each cafeteria. Commonly rescued items include milk, applesauce, apples, oranges, bananas, and bags of baby carrots. Other students and staff are free to take anything from the share fridge, to supplement their meal or provide a snack for later.

Items that are leftover at the end of the day are sent to Food Link, a food rescue organization in Arlington, helping to feed food-insecure individuals in the Boston area.

In November 2022, the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection revised their organics food waste ban. Now all commercial and institutional food establishments and processors producing more than 1/2 ton of food waste per week (down from 1 ton) are required to divert food waste and leftover food from the trash. With the combination of the Food Rescue Program and kitchen and lunchtime composting, LHS and Clarke and Diamond Middle Schools are compliant with the ban.

Food Rescue Program Pilot Begins at Diamond Middle School

POSTED: JANUARY 6, 2020 - 3:34PM (Article from Lexington Town website.)

On January 2, Diamond Middle School began piloting the Lexington Public School’s Food Rescue Program, which will aid in reducing food waste while helping tackle the issue of food insecurity. The program is anticipated to expand district-wide in the future, pending the outcome of the pilot program. In Massachusetts alone, 616,090 people struggle with hunger and 159,950 are children according to Feeding America’s 2019 numbers.

The program’s objective is to “repurpose” untainted, well-preserved foods by donating them to nearby food pantries, soup kitchens or shelters as needed. Food Link, out of Arlington, will be picking up the food and distributing it for donation.

The Food Rescue Program is a collaborative effort by Whitsons Food Services staff, school staff, Lexington Public Schools Green Teams (LPSGT) parent volunteers, Food Link, and the Lexington Office of Public Health.

The Office of Public Health has thoughtfully guided the development of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to ensure the program is consistent with applicable federal, state, and local food safety regulations. Additionally, they are the enforcement agent overseeing food safety for the program. Public Health oversight will include steps to prevent food-borne illness, accidental food allergy reactions, and other hazards from contamination.

This SOP will be piloted in January 2020 for a two-month period at Diamond Middle School. This pilot program will inform the expansion of the program to other sites in the future. The expansion will be determined based on further evaluation and discussion with Whitson’s, LPSGT, and the Office of Public Health, with approval from the Board of Health. The Lexington Board of Health is the authority that approved this pilot program.

School staff & LPSGT parent volunteers will work with students to familiarize them with the program by teaching them how to properly preserve the food, and explaining the importance of reducing food waste. The Lexington Office of Public Health has approved the training protocols for school staff.

In 2014, the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection established a commercial organics food waste ban, applicable to commercial food establishments and processors producing more than 1 ton of food waste per week. Although public schools generating less than 1 ton of food waste per week are not mandated to divert food waste through this ban, we will now be ahead of the curve should the state commercial waste ban expand to include smaller generators of food waste.

*Pictured left to right: Melissa Steinberg - Assistant Food Service Director, Whitson's Food Services, Kevin Silvia - Food Service Director, Whitson's Food Services; Tina McBride & Natalie Cohen - LPS Green Teams; Kari Sasportas - Public Health Director; Kammy Demello - Health Agent; Jennifer Turner, Diamond Middle School Principal; Brent Lo of Food Link; Dr. Julie Hackett, LPS Superintendent.