Regulations require that school’s unopened food gets tossed

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- At a school where a teacher says too many kids go hungry, hundreds of pounds of unopened food are being thrown away in a dumpster each week.

"I've been teaching here for 10 years and it's a pretty common practice for a student to come in asking if I have anything to eat," said Paul Richardson, a summer school teacher at Schlagle High School.

Richardson noticed something disturbing Monday morning as he was glancing out his window.

"It was shocking to me that there's a pile of non-perishable food at the bottom of the dumpster," said Richardson.

He used his cell phone to shoot video as he witnessed cafeteria members dumping leftover food from the 'Breakfast in the Classroom' program, a nationwide program that gives students a meal when they come to school.

"We are required to provide food for every child in the classroom, even if they tell us in advance that they're not going to eat," said David Smith, Chief of Staff for Kansas City, Kan. Public Schools.

According to Smith, the school cannot take back or redistribute food once it leaves control of the nutritional service and staff. In order to get the grant that supplies the food, regulations stipulate that they must toss it once it has been distributed.

"We think it makes a big difference for kids, and it's a shame that it gets portrayed as something that's not doing a good job, because it is," added Smith.

He says if the regulations were different, they would do something with the food that isn't eaten, but legally they don't have an option.

"Ultimately the intention behind feeding kids in the morning is a good thing," said Richardson, "It's just this peculiar policy of throwing extra food away."

Richardson says he wanted to share the video of the food-dumping so that everyone can help come up with a solution.

"There's a better way to do this," Richardson added. "There are far too many food pantries, churches, shelters; there's something better to do with the food than to throw it away."

FOX 4 reached out to the State Department of Agriculture to see why the regulations are the way they are, but had not received a response Wednesday evening.

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  • Mark Scaletty

    If KCKPS says that they have to follow the Government regulations. Why then, when I was a employed there and brought up serious Health and Public safety regulations (NFPA 96) that had not been followed for over 40 years with my many pictures and documentation did the District try to silence me with Admin leave, and tried to fire me?

  • Christina

    I worked in a school that had this same program. Each morning, I put breakfast on every desk. If the student didn’t want it they could give it to someone who did. That kept it from being thrown away. From what I understood, once the student takes possession of the meal they can do with it as they please. (eat it, save it, give it away) If it was wrapped breakfast that a student didn’t want, I had a basket that they could put it in for later in the day. I had several students who would dip into the basket on Friday for the weekend. I hope that helps.

  • Devon

    My kids took the left overs home each night and it was a reward for kids with behavior problems. The kids would fight over it at dismissal time, depending on what it was.

  • Sherri

    The amount of wasted food is incredible. I worked in KCK with low income preschool students, and most would go get their breakfast or lunch, eat only one thing, if that, and the. the were told to throw the rest away, even if it was unopened. I would allow my students to take stuff home if they asked because no child should have to go hungry because of federal regulations.

  • Laurie

    I can bet there was a good reason why the rule was made in the first place, but often they need to be revised. If unopened leftovers can’t be kept and used by the program, then there needs to be a way to donate them. My question is, does the rule state specifically where it needs to be disposed? Once it’s in the “trash” it’s open for anyone to take and what’s to prevent the staff from putting it in a carton/trash to donate later?

  • T Jackman

    Why let the food leave the nutrition staff’s hands? Let the students come to a location manned by nutrition staff and pick it up or have the nutrition staff go room to room and only hand out the food to the ones that want it. That way what ever is left over is never touched by anyone and can be put back in the pantry for the next day and so on. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out.

  • Elzada Mack

    I personally hate waste, but can’t come to grips with re issuing food that has been handled by another student. When I have substituted on Fridays, some students have taken a bag of food home for the weekend. I am sure there are hungry students somewhere in Kansas City, Kansas, but if they come to school, food is made available to them.