The need for a more efficient and effective way to distribute food truly is nationwide, but with that being said, food waste affects restaurants and homeless people the most. It is heartbreaking for a chef to have to throw away multiple pounds of food when the restaurant closes at the end of the day, and it is even more painful to see our streets filled with people who are going hungry. As a society, we need to change.
Each year, over 100 billion pounds of food are thrown away in the United States, with estimates suggesting that up to 40 percent of America's edible food supply ends up as food waste during the farm-to-table lifecycle. Meanwhile, there are 49 million people, including more than 16 million children, who are at risk of going hungry or lack adequate access to wholesome food (referred to as “food insecurity”). A large portion of this waste comes from commercial and retail sources and is thrown away in significantly greater quantities than the average person's table scraps. This food may be excess food made for cafeterias or catering services, or food that did not meet the retailer's quality control standards (such as sell by dates, appearance, dented or damaged containers, etc.). One way to simultaneously improve the issues of mounting landfills and food insecurity in America is to encourage these corporate donors, as well as individuals and smaller retailers, to donate their surplus food.
Food waste is a problem nationwide, but the most critical areas would be those of urban big cities: more people = more waste. Another issue that arises from the cities is the large abundance of restaurants which are the main contributors to food waste. Though my interviews I found that although some restaurants owners/managers are proactive and try to be resourceful with the leftover food, most are not. The issue arises from the overly complicated laws regarding food donations, which make people hesitant to donate. Let's break it down, what is allowed to be donated?
• Food. “Any raw, cooked, processed, or prepared edible substance, ice, beverage, or ingredient used or intended for use in whole or in part for human consumption.”
• Grocery Product. “A nonfood grocery product, including a disposable paper or plastic product, household cleaning product, laundry detergent, cleaning product, or miscellaneous household item.”
And what happens if the donated food makes someone sick? Who is responsible: the donor or the organization that distributed the food? The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (“Good Samaritan Act”) is a federal law aimed at “encouraging the donation of food and grocery products to nonprofit organizations for distribution to needy individuals” by providing a national standard of liability protection for both food donors and the nonprofits accepting these donations. Both donors and donees are generally protected from criminal and civil liability related to the donation of food and grocery products covered under the Good Samaritan Act. A donor or donee will only be liable for acts of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Donors are protected against strict liability, the typical standard for food products, or mere negligent conduct.
Besides the national laws, each state has their individual rules and processes to create an even more difficult process. Some states require food to be wrapped and labelled a certain way, while others accept any closed container (to ensure there is no contamination).
Bottom line is: it's complicated. Which is where Food for Good comes in.
Food for Good is an organization of people trying to help other people (and the planet too). We see the waste and the hungry and for us, its 2+2. The organization can be as small as one donor, one driver, and one hungry person, and the potential for growth is endless. The whole point is that we simplify the process for both the donor and the recipient, we are a much-needed middle man. We know the laws forward and backwards and are willing to volunteer our time to the benefit of others.
Breakdown of the operation:
Before Food for Good can take off I need a list of donors and volunteers. I believe a good place to recruit volunteers are high schools and colleges, which make Gainesville a very attractive market. Another good source of volunteers are retired people, but those would be harder for me to get in touch with initially. Volunteers would need to drive their own vehicles because as a self-funded non-profit organization, I would not be able to afford food pick-up vans right away. Volunteers would ride to restaurants in pairs: a driver and an extra pair of hands to package the food if necessary.
I will also establish a target geographic area and reach out to restaurants that fall under that area. If restaurants agreed to become donors, they would be given basic instructions on how to deal with the leftover food. Donors would need to commit to a schedule of donations, with some room for on-call pick-ups if there was ever more food left than expected. Once I have a list of donors and a list of volunteers, all I need is to organize a schedule to get the operation running.
Running Food for Good is easy, the hard part is acquiring funding. The way to do it would be to find a way, legally, for restaurants to receive a tax cut relative to the amount of food donated. With this incentive I believe many restaurants would be encouraged to donate. To fund the rest of the operation I would need to appeal to cause-marketing and convince brands to support our mission. Our targets would start with supermarkets that pride themselves on their community service such as Publix and Winn-Dixie.
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