Hunger Amidst Plenty: Salvaging Food
by Francis P. Koster, Ed.D.
Imagine yourself standing at your front door, looking at your three neighbors’ houses across the street, the homes on either side of yours, and don’t forget the one across the back fence. Add to that your own home for a total of seven front doors. The residents of those six houses are the ones who would call the fire department for you if smoke was coming from your roof, or take your trash can in if you are out of town, or feed your pet or water your plants. And it is not a one way exchange--you would alert your neighbor if her young children were playing in the street.
You are part of a little community that supports each other.
Now imagine that one of your neighbors homes has no food. How would you feel?
Each day in America, 1 in 7 households either do not have enough to eat, or are do not know where next week's food is going to come fromi - and this number is steadily increasing as chronic unemployment rises.
And knowing that, consider this: 27% of the food available for consumption in supermarkets and restaurants in America is thrown away uneaten. ii And restaurants in some states have been shown to toss out more than half the food they prepare -- not the scraps - but the un-served meals! iii.
What an opportunity!
Some organizations and communities have been at working to seize this opportunity for a long time. We can learn from them.
In Florida, in 2008, an 11- year -old boy named Jack Davis came up with thought of an idea to help facilitate restaurants feel more comfortable donating food, and successfully lobbied to pass a law to help them. This lead the famous Breakers Hotel to contact United Way of Florida, and together they found a way to sort out a way for them to turn surplus food into help assistance for others. Soon other companies and restaurants pitched in, and in 2010 a total of twelve 12 soup kitchens and homeless shelters received enough food to feed cook 35,000 meals - and, and t are on track to feed provide 72,000 meals in 2011.iv You can learn more about them at United Way's Community Food Alliance website.
In California, there are over 90,000 stores which licensed to serve food and beverages. Thanks to the efforts of Food Donation Connection, a donation coordination service, 940 of them donate surplus food, including Pizza Hut, KFC, and Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants. You can see more about them at their website, Food to Donate http://www.foodtodonate.org/ . Think about what the good that would be done if the other 89,060 stores got on board!
One of the keys to increasing the amount of salvaged food donated is to have refrigerated trucks collect the donation. Another is to have the crews of those trucks hold certificates of safe food handling. Once donors see a quality operation like that, they worry less about being blamed for an act of generosity, and donations rise.
In western North Carolina, the MANNA Food Bank collects and distributes food to 255 charities to use to feed peoplethose in need. They maintain a fleet of refrigerated vehicles with full- time drivers, a drive -in freezer, and a drive -in cooler, and will even collect from gardeners.v You can learn more about them at www.mannafoodbank.org. And oOne of MANNA's partners is Food Lion, which a grocery store that donated 31 million (that's right, million) pounds of food in 2010 throughout the eastern United States, including North Carolina. vi
A national law, called the Bill Emerson Act, was passed nationally in 1996 with the sponsorship of Newt Gingrich and President Clinton, and provides a uniform standard of liability protection (which allows large firms like Target and Kroger, which cross state lines, to haveadhere to one set of standardsrules to play by). In spite of this law, many supermarkets and restaurants still do not retrieve donate perfectly fine food due to unjustified fear of lawsuits in our litigious society. It appears seems that the folks who were early on in their careerknew about the law upon its passing in 1996 have moved up, or on, and their younger replacements may not even know what they are allowed to do under the law. It is one thing for the Vice President to know it is a safe thing to donate excess food - and another if Johnny the guy unloading the truckon the loading dock knows.
What can you do? Try reaching out to the companies that are likely to have surplus foods and encourage them to expand their programs. Clip this column and give it to your local grocery or restaurant. You could
Throwing away good food creates disposal costs for the organization throwing it away, and costs their taxpayers to expand expensive landfills, and increases the strain on churches and other care -giving organizations who in many casesoften have to buy food to feed the people they serve. To top it all off, a corporate donation actually increases the profit margin of the donator, because they get a tax deduction for a contribution of food to a charity! What a win/win/win!
I write this column to point to structural changes we can make in our behavior as a nation, working at the local level. We are a nation faced with many challenges. At the same time, we have in our immediate neighborhoods the ingredients to solutions toaddress those challenges head-on, as others have successfully done. We just need to step up to the plate - and help fill it.
To assist the Editor in Fact Checking:
i http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/ ”Food insecurity—the condition assessed in the food security survey and represented in USDA food security reports—is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food."
ii New York Times May 18, 2008
iii 2006 study by California Integrated Waste Management Board.
iv Sun Sentinel July 9, 2011 article by Alexia Campbell
vi Personal phone call and email with Ms. Tenisha Waldo, external communications specialist Food Lion.