University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

One-way, two-way, hybrid: Share table types and the flow of food

Illustration of a person standing at a crossroads and thinking

It’s easiest to think about share tables in terms of the flow of food and how items are placed and taken – can it go one way or back and forth?


With a one-way share table, students can freely PLACE items on the share table, but items are removed and safety measures taken before the food is again made available. You can save collected items and put back on the share table after washing, inspecting, etc. This may be as soon as the next meal period or you may save items for the following day. You can use items for re-service, or you might donate all collected items.


With a two-way share table, students can freely place AND remove items. Fruits with edible skin/peel should be wrapped or bagged before service.


A hybrid share table is most often one where fruits with edible skin or peel are collected as with a one-way share table, but other items can be placed AND removed as with a two-way share table.

Regardless of the type of share table you are interested in trying, remember that you MUST get your plans approved by the local health department.

You will also need to come up with plans for time/temperature control for safety (TCS) foods. Recall that these are items that must be kept hot or cold. TCS items can be kept chilled with ice or cold packs in a cooler or hotel pan. Hot items can be kept warm with insulated bags. If you don’t have these or choose not to use such equipment, TCS items could still be taken from the share table. However, they must be discarded at the end of the meal period.

What can you do with share table items?

In general, these are options whether you have a one-way, two-way, or hybrid share table. Again, your plans must be approved by the local health department!

1. Put on the share table the next day

2. Claim for reimbursement during another meal service

3. Send home with students through a backpack program

4. Supplement in-school food pantries

5. Donate to a non-profit organization (food pantry, food bank, homeless shelter, etc.)

**If you will have a one-way share table where you save all items for re-service or food donation, you can only collect TCS foods if you are able to keep those items at the right temperature.

Come back next week for logistical issues to think about as you consider how your share table might work!