Marshall County Rep. Wes Kitchens and Sen. Clay Scofield were at the signing of Bill 566. This bill is to allow public K-12 schools to donate surplus, non-expired foods to charitable organizations for the purpose of redistributing the food to needy students.
The bill was sponsored by Kitchens in the House and backed by every single member. Once it passed the House, Scofield carried it to the Senate.
It is in compliance with existing federal law that allows schools and local education agencies to participate in the federal school nutrition program to donate any food not consumed under the program to eligible local food banks or other charitable organizations.
The bill allows public school districts to donate , non-expired food to students who participate in the federal free and reduced lunch program.
Kitchens said that he has been in talks with several school systems including Marshall County on ways to distribute the food. There is no set way and it is really up to the school how they will make it work. They are allowed to do what works best for their school system.
Casey Partain the Child Nutrition Program Supervisor of Marshall County School Systems, said that she has been in talks with Kitchens for awhile now. She knew the bill had already passed and wanted his input on what would help their school system.
Partain said that Marshall County Schools have already had something similar to this in place, but this bill allows for more protection to the schools.
In place at all of the Marshall County Schools are what they call the Share Zone. This is an area where students can place items that they would not eat or drink for other students who may want them. It is free to the student that takes from the Share Zone.
She said that there are two main sections of the Share Zone. There is one area for fruit and non-perishable foods such as Pop-Tarts along with the bottom area for cold items such as milk or juice.
The bill allows the schools the opportunity to give those in need extra assistance with food. Partain said that they have a production record, which means that they order the amount of food that they will be using on a given day. They try not to have a lot of surplus, but it happens occasionally.
The typical times of year that this happens is around Christmas Break, Spring Break and the end of school. These are typically times that some students are taking early vacations or they may have items that expire quicker such as yogurt.
She said that at the end of the school year, they may have chips that expire sometime during the summer. They would speak with the principals, counselors and the job coach about where the need was greatest. They have donated the snacks to students in summer programs and/or sports so that no one goes without one.
Partain wanted to thank the CNP ladies at each of the schools for their outstanding jobs. She said that it is amazing to hear some of the students talk to these lunchroom workers better than they communicate with their teachers. They will tell them things that they do not typically tell their teachers.
She is proud of Marshall County's CNP workers and glad that there is now a safeguard to giving the food to those in need.
Kitchens said that to his knowledge, Alabama is one of only three states that allow the extra food to be donated. He is proud that Alabama is taking this step to help those in need and he reiterated that if it only helps one student, then this bill is doing its job.