How some companies donate uneaten food to keep out of landfills

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Tray with delicious healthy food on the plane, business class travel. Tasty Lunch served in the aircraft interior. Sun shining through the airplane window. Lens Flare.

Image: Shutterstock/StudioSmart

Have you ever thought about what a waste it is to throw away uneaten food when there are so many hungry people in the world? With 14 billion pounds of food annually being tossed into landfills while millions go hungry, this is definitely a valid concern. Well, take heart—there’s good news. Organizations like OzHarvest have solutions! An Australian organization, founded in 2004, OzHarvest is the first uneaten food rescue organization in the country which gathers uneaten food products from 2,000 companies including restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, airlines, farmers and others and donates it to more than 800 charities throughout several cities and regions. Although OzHarvest is the first of its kind in Australia, it’s not alone in its service worldwide. Plenty of others have done the same elsewhere since the concept of uneaten food recovery came into existence. Day-old bread, items slightly past their ‘best-used-by’ dates and other unused foods of similar quality content are often still edible and just need to be checked and sorted by volunteers to ensure so.

Who is Donating?

For at least two decades, well-known restaurants like Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC (i.e. Yum! brand) have been donating food through the network of Harvest food donation programs at Food Donation Connection (FDC). In addition, Darden restaurants (Seasons 52, Olive Garden, Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze), as well as the Cheesecake Factory, Grand Lux Cafe, Famous Dave’s, Auntie Anne’s, Chick-Fil-A, Einstein Bros Bagels, Wawa, Starbucks, Outback Steakhouse, NPC International, Red Lobster, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Cracker Barrel and Chipotle Mexican Grille, also donate their surplus foods throughout the U.S. and Canada via FDC. Growing in popularity worldwide every year, FDC gives more than 170 million pounds of food to 3,000 nonprofit organizations annually, making it the largest prepared food donation program in the world. Having recently partnered up with the National Restaurant Association, all association members are encouraged to donate their uneaten food to FDC, and one such member, HMS Host of Tampa International Airport, has taken that suggestion and recently donated more than 88,000 pounds of uneaten food product to charity through FDC in one year alone.

While some may decline donating due to worries about lawsuits, have no fear—that’s under control too. Since 1996, The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act has been in place in the United States. This act provides good faith food donors legal protection against liability lawsuits except in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Most states have followed suit with their own similar samaritan laws regarding food donations as well. There are usually tax breaks for donations from participating organizations too, making it an even sweeter deal for businesses.

The USDA does its part annually in coordination with the ‘Feds Feed Families Food Drive’ also, which gleans fresh produce from farms, farmers markets, etc. for those in need. The EPA’s ‘Feed Families, Not Landfills’ works with soup kitchens, food banks, shelters and other locales to distribute quality perishable food items to those in need as well. Community gardens also share their overly abundant harvests by having a listing in the American Community Garden Association database or participating in the national USDA People’s Gardens network.

Various additional organizations across many states and regions are adding to the networks available in their areas in order to reduce uneaten food waste and provide meals to the needy, both in the charity realm and also for a profit, including such names as Ahiara Development Union USA, AmpleHarvest.org, Campus Kitchens, Community Harvest of Stark County, Community Plates, CropMobster, DC Central, ‘Donate, Don’t Dump’, ExtraFood.org, Feeding America, Food Bus, Food For Free, Food Forward, Food Recovery Network, Food Rescue, Fork It Over!, Friendship Donations, Hungry Harvest, Keep Austin Fed, LA Kitchen, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, Move for Hunger, Nourish Now, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, Rock and Wrap It Up!, Rotary First Harvest, Saving Seasonals, Society of St. Andrew, Student Food Rescue, Three Square, We Don’t Waste, and White Pony Express.

These organizations and others like them can be easily found in your area with a simple search and subsequently matched with those in need—or with those wishing to donate. With any luck at all and a few dedicated souls, we might just get everyone fed and cut down on landfill waste after all!

Kristen lives in the Michiana area, where she enjoys lake-effect weather, apple orchards and occasional South Shore rides into Chicago. She can probably tell you more about apple cider vinegar than you'd ever want to know. You can reach her at: http://lakesedge.wix.com/lakesidewriting

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