With hunger being such a huge problem in America, it is amazing how much food we throw away per year. According to the Integrated Waste Management Board, in the state of California alone about 1.5 million tons of surplus food is thrown away by restaurants each year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture determined that Americans throw away 25% of the food we make, equaling a whopping 96 billion pounds annually of food waste . Just think–if that food was donated instead of thrown away, our hunger problem could become basically nonexistent. Not only will it help those in need, but it is beneficial in other ways as well. Discarded food is a huge source of pollution, producing methane at an alarming rate as it decomposes in landfills. Less methane is good for everyone, and if all restaurants started donating instead of throwing food in the garbage, they would be helping themselves as well as others.
Most of this discarded food, like that at my summer job, is perfectly good and even unopened in many cases. There is absolutely no reason to choose throwing it away over giving it to those who could use it. It is not like restaurants will lose money over something that is going in the garbage anyway, and donating even earns these restaurants tax breaks. Not only do they not lose anything, they actually make money! It seems like a no brainer. Food donation is a tremendous financial benefit and helps the needy. Why then, do more restaurants not participate? The answer, I found, is mainly the fear of being sued. There is a small chance that someone could get sick from eating this donated food, giving them the opportunity to sue and end up hurting the companies that help. However, thanks to many states now instituting the Good Samaritan laws, restaurants will be released from liability in the event of a food bourne illness. The Food Donation Restauranteurs Guide I mentioned in my first blog also outlines how restaurants can be free from the fear of lawsuits if someone gets sick while eating donated food.
There are many organizations already dedicated to this cause, and numerous restaurants are taking great leaps in the right direction. Due to the simplicity of the contribution process and laws enacted to make donation accessible, it is completely possible to have all restaurants donating and helping solve both hunger and pollution problems.