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Untouched food goes to waste at school feeding programs

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SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of Utah children eat breakfast and lunch at schools and parks that offer summer feeding programs. But it's what kids don't eat — what they throw away — that has many parents shaking their heads.

School lunch bags at a Salt Lake City School district feeding program are filled with fruits, beans, graham crackers and a variety of other foods. Other sites across Utah provide breakfast and lunch every day, so kids can get nutritious meals even when school's out.

Parents appreciate the extra help, but complain about rules that require them to throw away anything their kids don't finish on the site.

"A lot of times they can't finish everything before we leave and we can't take anything with us," said Natalie Steed, whose child participates in the program.

When kids can't finish their lunch, much of the extra food ends up in the trash because of federal regulations that dictate how food is handled on hot days.

"It's kind of hard to throw away food that I know they would eat in an hour or two," Steed said.

A lot of times they can't finish everything before we leave and we can't take anything with us.

–Natalie Steed

School officials say their hands are tied by the regulations. They say they try to take back some of the non-perishable food, but it's against food handling rules to reserve what has already been given to someone else.

"There's not much else we can do," said Jason Olsen with the Salt Lake City School District. "The food needs to be safe and we don't want it to deteriorate at all and get anybody sick."

Program servers try to give out as much food as they can to avoid waste by giving out second lunches. While extra helpings lessen the number of uneaten lunches, the garbage bin is still filled with untouched food.


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Nadine Wimmer


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