By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — Reducing school food waste and providing students with take-home meals are two things Annapolis High School students are tackling within one program.
The One More Meal program and non-profit along with the students’ hard work makes leftover food from lunch at AHS available as after-school and take-home meals for all.
According to the organization’s mission, “Any food that has not been served will be repackaged, and sent home with the students. Through this organization, students and families will learn about the multiple effects of food waste and the importance of food waste reduction, while having the opportunity to be an active part of the solution.”
One More Meal Founder Calli Brannan, 24, started the program after conducting a study last summer, comparing the food waste from five schools in Wayne County, including AHS. She said AHS had the most food waste in part because it had the most options.
Following the study, she approached AHS at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year to implement the pilot program in October for the first time and work out the kinks.
“So far the program has been running for five weeks at the high school and two weeks following that without my assistance, the students took over and contact me if needed,” Brannan said. “The students are in charge of food distribution, picking which and how many days a week food is provided, budget and the supplies.”
AHS Vice Principal Kevin Knierim said when the high school was presented with the opportunity to pilot the program, it was a “no-brainer.”
“Giving our students the opportunity to leave the school with food for the night or those that may not be heading home right after school something to eat is comforting to know they won’t be hungry later,” Knierim said. “The other issue we combat is food waste. The amount of food waste around the world is astonishing. The program obviously combats that issue. It may not solve it, but every little bit helps.”
During the two days a week the students run the program, they take leftover cafeteria lunch food from the day before, package it and make it available in a buffet style after school inside the cafeteria. The cafeteria staff allows the food to cool down before refrigerating it.
Knierim said students select food which will be placed in a take-home container, encourage their classmates to get something to eat and monitor the number of students who come get food.
“The response has been great,” he said. “Many students swing by to either grab a bite to eat before heading home or take multiple containers home.”
Brannan said some students eat the leftovers at home or as an after-school snack if they stay at AHS for athletics or other programs.
Students Alexandra Kole, Anthony Mendoza and Jenna Chamenti were selected from the school’s Key Club to help kick start student involvement in the program, and they have been “amazing to work with,” Knierim said.
He also said the staff from the District No. 7 food services management company, Sodexo, have been great to work with as the food is packaged after lunch.
“They are now training other students the process in order to have a rotation of students to help prepare and serve the food at the end of the day,” he said.
Currently, five students participate in the program with several more showing interest, Brannan said.
“The short-term goals are to help alleviate the stress of hunger for teens experiencing food insecurity and build the skill sets of students entering the work force, teach students about budgeting and financial aspects along with food management skills.”
As for a long-term goal, Brannan said she wants to implement One More Meal at schools in the area and then in every low income school nationwide.
Along with One More Meal, Brannan is a Community Nutrition Program Instructor at Michigan State University Extension, but hasn’t forgotten where her passion comes from.
Brannan attended Rochester Community Schools where she noticed food waste first-hand, and then Kalamazoo College where she also saw food waste on a larger scale along with poverty.
To help those in need, Brannan worked with the Food Recovery Network during her time in college which led to the start of a chapter of the same non-profit at Kalamazoo College.
For more information on the organization or to implement the program in a school email [email protected]
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])