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FCPS Food Sharing Guidelines


Food sharing diverts food from the trash and allows students’ unopened and uneaten food to be donated to fellow classmates or a local food bank or food pantry. Food sharing can reduce food waste in the cafeteria and help address food insecurity concerns. Use these official FCPS food sharing guidelines to engage in food sharing at your school.


Food sharing can occur in a couple of ways:

1) an established Share Table at your school

2) donation of safe food items to an outside food entity through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)


Unopened food should be shared through the school’s Share Table first. Students can then visit the school Share Table and select additional items to eat with their lunch. Items that are not taken by students can then be donated to local food banks through the Memorandum of Understanding.


1. Set Up Your School for Food Sharing

You’ve decided you’d like to start food sharing at your school. What do you need to get started?


Start with a Share Table
Share Tables allow for students to share unopened or unwanted food during meal service. Share Tables can increase the consumption of nutritious foods and decrease waste. Students can then visit the Share Table and select additional items to eat with their lunch. Schools are encouraged to have Share Tables as part of their food service and waste reduction efforts.


Signage created and provided by Food and Nutrition Services must be highly visible near the Share Table and the Notification of Share Table Form must be filled out, signed, and sent to Dianne Hardbower at [email protected]. Schools participating in the Share Table Program will receive signage from FNS once all documents have been completed.


Shelf-Stable Food Items (ex: Cheez-Its, Sunflower Seeds, Granola, PB&J, etc.)
Choose a specific location in the cafeteria to collect unopened and uneaten foods that do not need refrigeration. Students can place food on the Share Table or take food from the Share Table during their lunch period.


Perishable Food Items (ex: Milk, Cheese Sticks, Yogurt, etc)
If a school would like to have perishable foods at their Share Table as well, the school must secure a refrigerator to hold these items next to the Share Table. For temperature controlled foods needing refrigeration, temperature must be maintained at or below 41°F with temperatures taken and recorded daily on a temperature log. Ensure there is a thermometer in place at all times in the refrigerator.


After all lunch periods are over, items that are not taken by students can be donated to local food banks through the MOU. If your school has a food pantry, perishable and non-perishable foods may be donated there. Please see the following guidance for donations of safe food items to an outside food entity through an MOU. If your school will not be donating food to a food bank or food pantry, food on the Share Table must be disposed of at the end of the meal period each day.


Partner with a Local Food Bank to Donate Any Remaining Food
The first step to donating unopened food items that are not claimed at your Share Table is finding a recipient. This could include a local church with a poverty outreach program, a local homeless shelter, a local food bank, or other charitable entity. Make sure to choose a local facility to make it easier for volunteers (parents, faculty, or staff) to drive donated food to the specified location. Most locations will not provide pick-up service. You can use the map below to find a local food bank near your school.



Once you have communicated with the charity and agreed to partner, you will need to submit the Memorandum of Understanding for Donation of Student School Meal Leftovers to Local Food Banks to the FCPS Office of Food and Nutrition Services. Send completed forms to Dianne Hardbower at [email protected].


Use your school’s newsletter, social media, and other communication channels to recruit volunteers. Create a sign-up form to make it easy for volunteers to sign up to deliver donations.


Equipment and Supplies needed


  • A designated Share Table in an accessible location.
  • Signs - Food and Nutrition Services has created a food share table sign and will send two copies to your school once the notification form is received. Your school will receive two identical signs, each in a different color, to advertise and share important information with students. At least one sign must be displayed at the food share table. The second copy of the sign can also be posted or saved as a backup sign.
  • Labeled containers may be useful for organizing food.
  • Refrigerator - If you are including perishable foods in your food-sharing program, you will need a refrigerator to keep them cold. You can ask your school community if anyone has a refrigerator they would be willing to donate. The PTA or principal may also have funds to put toward the purchase of a refrigerator. The size needed will depend on the size of your operation, but the one pictured below suits an elementary school. Temperatures must be maintained at or below 41°F with temperatures taken and recorded on a temperature log daily. Ensure there is a thermometer in place at all times in the refrigerator. Use this Share Table Refrigerator Temperature Log to record daily temperatures.
  • Notification of Share Table Form - if planning on creating a Share Table, this form must be filled out and then submitted to Dianne Hardbower at [email protected]
  • Memorandum of Understanding - if donating leftover food to a food pantry, the Food Sharing Memorandum of Understanding must be filled out and submitted to Dianne Hardbower at [email protected].


2. Educate About Food Sharing

Once you’ve established a food share table or donation to a food bank or food pantry, it’s essential to educate students and staff on why and how food sharing will happen at their school. While each school is unique, this slide deck for introducing food sharing (must be signed into account) can be customized to introduce food sharing to your school community. Some partners in your food-sharing mission may include:


  • Teachers and students (including Get2Green Leaders and green teams)
  • Cafeteria staff and custodians
  • Family liaison, social workers, and counselors
  • PTA and other community members


3. Host a Successful Food Sharing Program

A variety of meal components are offered to students daily at breakfast and lunch; however, students are not required to take all components offered. Students must select three components (minimum), one of which must be ½ cup fruit and/or vegetable to count as a reimbursable meal. The other two components are the students’ choice. Students are not required to take milk. Students are encouraged to only purchase the food they will eat. Use the resources above to educate your students and school community about how any leftovers can go to your school’s food sharing program and how students can use the Share Table.


Food items that CAN be shared:

  • Whole Fruit with peel (tangerines, oranges, bananas, etc.)
  • Whole Apples
  • Unopened chips
  • Unopened applesauce or peach packages
  • Unopened, wrapped items such as dips
  • Dried fruit
  • Juice boxes
  • Unopened milk (must be refrigerated)
  • Yogurt (must be refrigerated)


Food items that CANNOT be shared:

  • Sliced or quartered fruit such as oranges, kiwi, grapefruit
  • Cups of Salads and Raw Vegetables
  • Hot Vegetables
  • Hot or Cold Meat sandwiches
  • Hot Meat items such as Chicken tenders, Burritos, and Cheese sticks
  • Hot Casserole items such as Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and Macaroni and Cheese.
  • Food from home

4. Measure Your Impact

As explained in the Memorandum of Understanding a weekly log should be maintained of the food items taken to local food banks. This tabulated data should be retained on-site for Food and Nutrition Services review and for school data collection purposes. This chart can be found on the last page of the MOU. The easiest way to keep track of outgoing food items is to print out this chart and keep it in a clipboard by the food collection area. This form should be maintained by the school/parent volunteer representative who is collecting the donation, identified by their signature on page 3 of the MOU.


If you have any questions, please contact [email protected]