In Atlanta and many other cities there are confusing guidelines for leftover food donation that often cause hunger, waste, and anger among restaurateurs and the homeless. According to UNEP (The United Nations Environment Programme) about 20 pounds of food per person, per month is wasted each month in North America alone, Adding up to about 30-40% of America’s food supply.
Many restaurants and bakeries, like Panera Bread or Subway, bake bread fresh each day and are forced to trash leftovers at the end of the day for a couple of reasons. The National Coalition for the Homeless states that from Jan. 2013 to Oct. 2014 21 cities have passed confusing laws that scare restaurant owners about the potential for being sued if someone gets sick from spoiled food.
Many restaurants shy away from donating food because it is a common misconception that restaurants can be sued if they accidentally donate spoiled food. However, there is a law passed in 1996 called The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that protects restaurants from liability as long as they have not recklessly or intentionally donated rotten food.
I interviewed a few local restaurateurs whose main concern regarding food donation are liability for unhealthy food and the fact that it requires a lot of extra manpower and money. It appears that many restaurants are unaware of the legal protection afforded by the Emerson Act. I intend to take a copy of the law and hand it out to local restaurants along with a simple explanation that many of their fears are unfounded.
There is a shockingly wasteful amount of food thrown away each year, filling up trash dumps and starving those who need it. This problem can be solved like many others, with information. If the actual wording of this federal law becomes common knowledge among restaurateurs we can save lives and our environment.