The Use of Share Tables

This web page provides guidance regarding the use of share tables in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). It includes information from Senate Bill 557 which was signed into law and effective January 1, 2018. Please note that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) only permits share tables for the At-risk Afterschool Meals component of the CACFP.

Definition of Share Tables

To reduce food waste and encourage the consumption of food served, many food service operations have established share tables. Share tables are carts or tables where children can place unconsumed food and beverage items (i.e., prepackaged food and beverages; unopened, wrapped food and beverages; or food items with a peel) that they choose to not eat or drink. These tables provide an opportunity for other children to take additional helpings of food or beverages at no cost. Under certain circumstances, both state law and federal guidance allow food and beverage items to be reused by food service operations as part of a reimbursable meal, served a la carte, or used in cooking. For more information, see USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Policy Memorandum SP 41-2016 The Use of Share Tables in Child Nutrition Programs web page.

Donating Share Tables Items

Food and beverage items can be donated to a nonprofit organization per USDA Policy Memo CACFP05 Guidance on the Food Donation Program in Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) web page.

Donations of food or food made available to children during the course of a regular school mealtime may include prepackaged, non-hazardous food with the packaging still intact and in good condition, unopened bags of sliced fruit, unopened containers of milk that are immediately stored in a cooling bin maintained at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below, perishable prepackaged food (if it is placed in a proper temperature-controlled environment), and whole uncut produce that complies with the CalCode, Section 113992, before donation. Additionally, as outlined in CalCode, Section 114079, when an institution makes food available to children during the course of a regular school mealtime or donates food to a food bank or any other nonprofit charitable organization for distribution, the preparation, safety, and donation of food shall be consistent with CalCode, Section 113980.

Documentation Requirements for Share Tables

Recycled meal components served and/or claimed for reimbursement must be properly documented and maintained as outlined in the USDA FNS Instruction 786-6 REV. I Reimbursement for Recycled Milk and Other Meal Components. CACFP At-risk After School Operators should contact your local environmental health department to ensure compliance with applicable local health and safety codes.

With regards to accountability for such recycled meal components, claims for reimbursement shall include data in sufficient detail to justify the reimbursement claimed. In addition, claims are subject to review or audit and must be substantiated by appropriate documentation. Therefore, institutions should maintain record of their daily use of purchased milk or other food items which are recycled.

Best Practices to Help Reduce Food Waste

Offer versus Serve

Food service operations with increased food costs (due to waste and food discarded from share tables) may want to consider implementing offer versus serve (OVS). OVS is a provision with two major goals: (1) reduce food waste in CNPs, and (2) permit children and adults to select only the foods they want to consume. OVS allows children and adults to decline components during a breakfast, lunch, or supper service. Visit the USDA OVS in the CACFP web page to access training resources to assist with meeting the CACFP OVS requirements. Furthermore, as stated in the USDA Policy Memo CACFP 05-2017 OVS and Family Style Meals in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, OVS is only allowed in CACFP at-risk afterschool and adult day care settings for breakfast, lunch and supper meals. OVS is not allowed at snack. OVS may not be implemented at snack because there are only two required components and, therefore, there is not enough food offered to allow a child or adult to decline some foods and ensure that the snack the child or adult takes is nutritionally sufficient. For the purpose of this web page, OVS only pertains to at-risk afterschool in terms of share tables.

Placement of Share Tables

Placement of the share table at the end of a serving line (rather than in a cafeteria) can improve the supervision of the share table by food service staff; therefore, ensuring that food contamination is reduced or eliminated.

Reuse of Items Left on the Share Tables

Food or beverage items left on the share table may be served and claimed for reimbursement during another meal service (i.e., during an afterschool program when leftover from a school lunch), if the share table is supervised by the food service staff. Food or beverage items left on the share table may also be used in another program’s reimbursable meal and would be considered a donation to the other program as mentioned earlier on this web page. Please keep in mind that reusing items left on the share tables is only acceptable when in compliance with applicable state and local health and safety codes. For further guidance and information, please contact your local environmental health department.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider. 
Esta institución es un proveedor que ofrece igualdad de oportunidades.

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Contact Us

CDSS Child and Adult Care Food Program
744 P Street, MS 9-13-290
Sacramento, CA 95814

For questions regarding this subject, please contact the California Department of Social Services CACFP Nutrition Team by email at