Teacher Annette Poole Medina has spearheaded a food donation program that benefits residents at a nearby senior citizen center.

It’s mealtime at Broad Avenue Elementary School in Wilmington, and the students are deciding what they want – and don’t want – to eat.

A couple of minutes later, bins set up in each of the classrooms are filled with fruit, uneaten entrees and unopened cartons of milk – untouched and still nutritious leftovers that soon will be bound for the Wilmington Jaycee Foundation senior citizen center.

“My inspiration comes from my parents who came from the WWII era where you do not waste anything – you reuse and recycle everything,” said second-grade teacher Annette Poole Medina, who created the program she called “Pass It, Don’t Trash It” at Broad Avenue Elementary. “I always tell my students that it is important not to waste food because someone else might want it and we need to pass it along to someone in need.”

Now, thanks to a new state law championed by L.A. Unified, school districts across California will soon find it easier to replicate programs that are in place in Broad and nearly 100 other campuses across the District. Beginning Jan. 1, Senate Bill 557 will allow public schools to donate unopened prepackaged food, uncut produce like apples and chilled cartons of milk to food banks or other charities.

“This bill is fantastic,” said Food Services Director Joseph Vaughn. “It removes several barriers that have made it difficult to donate food.”

Click here to watch a KLCS-TV video about Broad Street Elementary School’s food donation program.

L.A. Unified’s food donation program was launched following the approval of “Healthy Students, Healthy Families, Healthy Communities,” a resolution sponsored by Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic in 2011. At that time, only food and milk that had not yet been served could be given away.

Students at Broad Avenue Elementary are learning to donate the food they won’t be eating.

“I am extremely proud of Broad Avenue Elementary School and the staff for leading the way on our new food donation law through their ‘Pass it, Don’t Trash It’ program, which is now being passed on to all principals in Local District South,” Dr. Vladovic said. “The food donation program will ensure that food not consumed by students that is still fit for consumption will make its way into the hands of those who need it.

“I applaud the efforts by the legislature to help us assist the needy by removing unnecessary barriers to donate perfectly good excess food,” he said.

Each day, L.A. Unified serves about 650,000 meals – beginning with breakfast in the morning, lunch at midday and supper in the late afternoon. Despite the District’s best efforts to have options that will appeal to all of the kids, some food inevitably ends up in the trash.

Robert Laughton, director of the District’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety, said the new state law will allow L.A. Unified to reduce the food waste sent to the landfill.

“For every 20 percent reduction in organic waste, the District will save an average of $450,000 per week in rubbish-hauling expenses, and reduce the amount of waste going to landfills or recycling facilities, he said.

At Broad Avenue Elementary, Poole Medina is teaching her students the importance of looking out for others.

“The No. 1 rule I teach is to be kind and to do what’s right, so if we have something left over, we don’t trash it, we pass it along and help feed more hungry. These students are our future. They can help change the world.”

And talking to her students, it sounds like they are getting the message.

“Now that we have a community box, we don’t have to waste any food and we have enough for the senior citizens,” said Austin, a student in Poole Medina’s second-grade class.

Classmate Jaylin added, “It’s important to donate the food because we give it to other people who don’t have anything to eat.”