“A lot of times kids do not eat their food that is packaged, so why not just donate it?” said Kathleen Tranquillo, mastermind behind the Lunch donation bin.
During their lunch waves, students can donate their unopened food to St. Anthony’s Church in Prospect by putting uneaten foods into the bin at the back of the Woodland Regional High School’s cafeteria.
Tranquillo noticed students were throwing away valuable items that could go to someone who cannot afford it. Tranquillo noticed this issue within the community.
“It is ridiculous that all of this food was getting thrown out and it is good food,” said Tranquillo. “I was standing there and I had enough of seeing good food go into the trash when families are actually hungry.”
For the rest of the school year, Woodland is providing free lunches for all students. While on cafeteria duty, Tranquillo watches kids get food from the kitchen but never eat it.
“It defeats the purpose of things being free,” said Tranquillo.
The donation bin sits at the front of the cafeteria by the garbage, so it has a “recycling feel to it.” Students have been placing fruit, especially apples, and little snacks from home, like bags of chips and granola bars, into the bin.
To start off the project, Tranquillo did research of her own by talking to the kitchen staff. The kitchen staff is not allowed to bring the food they prepare to homeless shelters due to health issues, so Tranquillo started her idea because she hated seeing the food go to waste. It is a solution to the growing problem that does not violate health regulations.
“If [the students] are eating all the food, that’s great; however, if they’re wasting all the food, that makes me sad and frustrated,” said Tranquillo.
Watching valuable items get thrown out has always been one of Tranquillo’s pet peeves. She donates everything from food to art supplies. Thrift stores and other donation shelters receive clothes from Tranquillo’s family because she knows other people could use the items more than she could. Tranquillo also stores “hand-me-down” gym uniforms in her office for students in need.
“I feel like ringing a bell every time I donate something,” said Tranquillo.
Donating makes Tranquillo feel accomplished. It is something good that is helping the community and environment around her, the reason she started the donation bin project.
Students have a positive attitude toward the project as well. Unsure if they qualify, students ask about bread that is loosely wrapped and other items like it. They may not understand the meaning behind the project, but they are willing to give away their unopened foods. The donation bin is seen as a positive addition to the high school’s cafeteria.
Tranquillo is not sure if the donation bin will start up again in the future, but she is excited to see how much of an impact it will make this school year and often wonders:
“What do you do with your unopened food at the end of the day?”