Give Back by Wasting Less - Action for Healthy Kids
Open Search

Give Back by Wasting Less

Print Page


Originally celebrated as a harvest festival, Thanksgiving is now a time of the year to give thanks and to celebrate with popular, fall-inspired foods. Each year, over 46 million turkeys, 50 million pumpkin pies and 3 million pounds of collard greens are eaten over the Thanksgiving holiday (1,2). Whether you are preparing a meal at home with family or at school with students, Thanksgiving is a timely reminder to consider how food waste affects our communities. At a time when 1 in 6 children are hungry, taking a few simple tips to reduce food waste will not only save money, but it can also give back to those individuals and families in need (3).

Check out our favorite ways to give back by wasting less food at school and at home.

At School

  1. Ask students and parents to participate in a Thanksgiving-themed food drive. Donate canned goods, produce and packaged items to your local food pantry. Suggest donated items that fit the Thanksgiving-theme may include pumpkin puree, canned veggies, spices or whole-grain bread products. Ask your local pantry what is needed most.
  2. Have a school garden? Compost food scraps such fruit and vegetable rinds and cores, bread, or eggshells. Add the compost to your school garden to create healthy soil and positive growing conditions.
  3. If you’re hosting a school-based meal or cooking class, consider using imperfect-looking produce (that you might normally throw out) for cooked dishes such as casseroles. This won’t impact the recipe and you’ll save money in the process.
  4. Involve students in planning for snacks and parties. A crowd-pleasing recipe is less likely to be wasted!
  5. Work with your school nutrition staff to allow students to place unconsumed milk and whole produce in a bin during breakfast and lunch periods. Allow students to take these items home after school or donate to your local pantry.

At Home

Share these ideas with staff and families on your school website/social media or newsletter.

  1. Create a beautiful and seasonal centerpiece of fresh veggies, fruit, and herbs. Then, donate the entire centerpiece to your local food pantry to feed those in your community.
  2. Select recipes that fit with one another by using similar ingredients, especially if the recipe calls for something unique or expensive such as fresh herbs. Select a few simple recipes after Thanksgiving to use up the rest of that pumpkin puree and chopped onion.
  3. Invite Thanksgiving guests to bring their own reusable containers. Fill up these containers with leftovers and stash in the fridge until everyone heads home.
  4. Encourage smaller portion sizes by setting out smaller serving spoons and smaller plates for a family-style buffet.
  5. Freeze any leftovers for easy dinners reminiscent of Thanksgivings past. Organize single serving portions of each food item into freezable containers. Reheat for a nutritious lunch or dinner.

Tips to Engage Volunteers

Bring a group of students to volunteer at your local food pantry.

Recruit parents or work with a local garden center to build and install a bin to compost food waste.

Create a sign-up sheet for parents to take turns taking leftover food from class celebrations or the cafeteria to a local food pantry (or work with the food pantry to tap into their volunteer network to do so).

Partner with local supermarkets and restaurants to collect their day-old items each night and deliver them in the morning to the school to ensure that all students can have healthy, high-quality meals.