“Each year an estimated one billion food items are discarded in schools,” Newburyport food service director Sheryn Seale said, “while one in six Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from. In the United States 30 to 40 percent of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.”

The cafeteria “Food Recovery Program” at the Nock Middle, Molin Upper Elementary and Bresnahan Elementary Schools gives students the opportunity to see firsthand how they can help change that, and they have stepped up to the plate.

So far this school year they have already rescued 1,440 pounds of food, including 1,155 milk cartons, 1,088 apples and 253 oranges through the Food Recovery Program run by Nourishing the North Shore.

The mission of Nourishing the North Shore (NNS) is to ensure equal access to healthy food to all members of the greater Newburyport community in a manner that builds community, fosters connection, and promotes dignity and self-reliance.

During the growing season NNS distributes fresh, local produce to those in need picking up produce from community gardens, backyard gardens and local farms and redistributing it to food pantries, public housing and senior centers, and holding mobile produce stands.

But this is New England and the growing season is short. When gardens are not producing, that’s when the schools can pick up the slack. During the off season, the Food Recovery Program in the schools not only reduces waste, but helps provide wholesome food to seniors and families when local produce is less available.

“During the school year we get a lot of milk, apples, oranges, and unopened snacks,” said Pam Palombo, the public health nurse for the City of Newburyport and the Newburyport Health Department, “which we donate to needy families. A lot of it can go right back into children’s lunchboxes.”

Unopened items such as milk, fruit and veggie cups, yogurt, sun butter, cheese, margarine cups, and fresh fruit are saved and distributed by NNS.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said third grader Annie Kate Ames, “because it helps to feed people, who don’t have enough money and don’t have enough to eat.” When she buys the school lunch “sometimes I have apples or yogurt left over because sometimes it’s too much food, and sometimes I just don’t like it.”

“The National School Lunch Program requires that fruit and vegetables be part of every school lunch meal,” Seale said, “and while we are continually encouraging students to eat healthy often times these items end up in the trash.”

Wicked Local: Newburyport​