Leftover Food Donations by Restaurants: Why would you not do this?

Every so often there is a news item about the tons of leftover food that go to waste each year while millions of Americans go undernourished. As I recently learned, this is not a problem that can be easily pinned on politicians. In fact, the Federal Government and many states have legislation that protects food donors from legal liability.

Given the legal protections, the incumbent “good guy” publicity, potential cost savings and of course, it’s the right thing to do, why aren’t more bars and restaurants participating in food donation programs?

Food donors are protected by law

Frequently, the first reason given by grocery stores or retail establishments as to why they do not donate leftover food is “legal liability.” However, there are protections in Federal law for restaurants that donate food to organizations that distribute to those in need. Specifically, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 encourages restaurants and groceries stores to donate products to qualified non-profits by providing liability protection.  Even with the Bill Emerson Act, there is no public record in the United States of someone being sued because of donating food.

Donating instead of dumping can mitigate losses

When leftover food is trashed it hurts your bottom line in several ways. First, you bought the food and paid labor costs to have it prepared. That money is spent. However, when you throw the leftover food in your dumpster, you are now paying to have it hauled away. The more leftovers you dump, the more pick-ups you are paying for.

Instead of dumping, if you donate, you save on hauling costs and also can pick up a tax deduction.

Leftover food donations are a good way to improve the public profile of your establishment

D.C.’s restaurant industry is extremely competitive with new “trendy” places opening every week. Therefore, it is incredibly important to keep a competitive edge. One simple way to grab the public’s attention is by charity and positive values. During the recent shutdown, it was highlighted by the press that restaurants were giving away free meals to furloughed workers. The restaurants were able to capture the attention of the public, cash-in on free advertisement, and do the right thing, all at the same time!

D.C. Nonprofits make food donations easy

If you are interested in donating your leftover food, check out these local organizations: DC Central Kitchen, Martha’s Table, and Thrive DC. Organizing with these groups is easy and straightforward. Each of their websites provides information on what type of donations they can accept and the standard that must be met with regards to leftovers, pre-cooked foods, and perishable items.



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