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Austin ISD encourages students to share food

Austin ISD has earned some national recognition for its strategies that encourage students to eat more healthy foods and reduce food waste through its "shared tables" program.

Instead of throwing away food you don't like, how about offering it to a neighbor? That's the goal for an Austin ISD program which has earned some national recognition.

The National School Nutrition Association recognized AISD for its strategies to increase healthy foods and reduce food waste -- specifically through its "shared tables" program.

"It's so important that we teach our kids healthy habits, and we start out at a young age," said Anneliese Tanner, the Executive Director of Food Service for Austin ISD. "That includes thinking about the environmental impact and recognizing that hunger is a big issue in our community, that we all have responsibility to address."

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If a student doesn't want their unopened food, or whole pieces of fruit, they can place them on a table in the lunchroom. School staff makes sure cold items, like milk, go to the refrigerator.

Then, other students have the opportunity to pick up the food.

Tanner said they're honored to get the acknowledgement for the program, which launched in 2016.

"We've definitely seen a reaction from the community and especially the kids really wanting to make sure they're being so mindful about their waste. We're really saving on the ecology front and then also there's that community building around 'helping your neighbor' and providing food for those who need it," said Tanner.

The district also uses scratch cooking to make foods that kids like and won't throw away and offers a "made to order" salad bar to encourage the kids to choose healthy foods.

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