There was plenty to celebrate Wednesday at Virginia Avenue Elementary School as the school district rescued more than 25,000 pounds of food for Kern County's Waste Hunger Not Food program.

Even a dancing apple got in on the festivities.

Representatives from Kern County Public Health presented a certificate to Fairfax School District and Virginia Avenue Elementary School officials for collecting 25,967 pounds of food from Feb. 1.

All week long public health officials are visiting schools who have participated in the program.

"Instead of this food going to the trash can, we rescue it and give it to families who need it," said Michelle Corson, public relations officer with the Kern County Public Health Services Department, to a group of kindergartners. 

"Does it make you feel good to help people?" she asked them, which was met with a loud "Yeah!" in response.

Waste Hunger Not Food takes edible food from restaurants, schools and markets that otherwise may be wasted and distributes it to those in need, according to its website. School officials have been looking into ways to use all the leftover food in their cafeterias at the end of each day, and Fairfax School District Superintendent Michael Coleman said this collaboration made sense.

"I've been in education for 25 years and every district that I've been in the common question among reasonable people is 'Why are we throwing this food away?'" he said. "As the society has gone over the last 25 years, it's not hard to see that there are people in need."

All four schools in the Fairfax School District — Shirley Lane, Virginia Avenue and Zephyr Lane elementary schools and Fairfax Junior High School — collect food.

If students have uneaten food at the end of their lunch, they can put items such as juice, milk, yogurt, unopened prepackaged food, fruits and vegetables in a sharing station, said Richard Andrews, director of nutrition services.  Those items are later transferred to a freezer and collected by Waste Hunger Not Food. Cafeteria staff also put leftover items into freezers rather than throwing them out at the end of the day.

"These schools have really helped us and are changing the culture and how we view trash," Corson said.

Schools in Bakersfield City, Kern High, Edison, Fruitvale, Standard and Greenfield Union school districts also collect food for the program.

Since its launch on Sept. 10, Waste Hunger Not Food has rescued 261,607 pounds of food as of Wednesday.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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