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Del. Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell

CHARLESTON - The West Virginia House of Delegates this week passed a bill that will allow schools to pass out unused food to students.

Sponsored by Del. Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, the bill is modeled after a nationwide initiative called Shared Table. Lovejoy said the U.S. Department of Agriculture already has authorized schools to begin using the strategy to reduce food waste, but some West Virginia schools did not feel comfortable doing it without some state guidance.

The bill would allow schools to work with county health departments and the USDA to come up with guidelines to recirculate unused food to students.

"It can be as simple as a literal shared table where kids get food like an apple or banana or an unopened package of carrots or crackers, they don't want them, they put them on the table and other kids go get them," Lovejoy said. "It can go another step, and you can have food backpack programs like many schools already have, where the food left is put in backpacks for kids to take home for the night or weekends."

Food could also be collected and given to a local food pantry.

According to Feeding America, more than 79,000 children in West Virginia suffered from food insecurity in 2017.

"If we take each school in West Virginia and each of those schools saves 10 pounds (of food) a week, that's 2 pounds a day, which isn't that much. It would be almost a third of a million pounds of food," Lovejoy said. "We've already paid for it. There's no extra cost. It's just taking food (that would normally go) in the trash and putting it in the hands of kids."

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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