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Sep 26, 2012 06:04 PM

"Take it, or we'll throw it"


First time poster. I'm an engineer here in the Bay Area. I eat out a lot and often end up at restaurants late into the evening, right about closing time. As a result, I've been the recipient of a lot of free food, accompanied by a very direct, "Take it, or we'll throw it". Although I appreciate the gesture, I've noticed that despite handing out freebies to customers, there is still a lot of good, yummy food that ends up in the trash. It makes me wonder, why don't restaurants donate more instead of throwing it?

At first, I presumed liability. However, after a quick google search, I found that in 1996 Congress passed the 'Emerson Good Samaritan Act' which eliminates donor liability, except in the case of gross negligence.

There are food banks, soup kitchens and other organizations which will come pick up the food for free. So what gives?

As this forum is full of people who passionately care about what they eat, I thought it might bother some of you, too.

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  1. I hear you and it bothers me immensely. I've heard a lot of restaurants choose to not donate also due to fear of being sued.

    I think another reason is logistics - if you donate food, you have to make sure the donor company shows up every night to receive it. What about finding a donor company who will receive the food? Who picks up these leftovers? After hours means after 10pm at the earliest and although there are many homeless, there are not many organizations who can pick up and hand out these meals.

    You know what commercial that bothered me to no end? The Jamie Oliver commercial where he toured school cafeterias and was appalled by the meal options. What got me was at some point, there was a shot of him standing right in front of at least a 6ft mountain of 'bad' food - burgers, fries, etc. To him it can be junk food, but to someone starving it's gold. The hypocrisy!

    3 Replies
    1. re: nikkib99

      Not hypocrisy. "Just" an overcomplicated food delivery system. I'm sure we can do better, but we need to park issues of profit aside briefly.

      1. re: nikkib99

        Thanks for the response. Definitely a logistical challenge. I've emailed my local Food Bank (Second Harvest) to find out more about how they coordinate their donations.

        I checked out 'Jamie Oliver school dinner' on YouTube. Yes, I get what you are saying.

        1. re: nikkib99

          Thought I'd share this article from yesterday's Washington Post re a city council effort in Montgomery County, Md, to address the issue:

          Excerpt: "Ervin was inspired to establish a food recycling program after she learned of efforts at the Food Recovery Network, a student group at the University of Maryland. Since September 2011, the group has scooped up leftovers from the university dining hall and sports games and delivered them to charitable organizations. It spends about 10 cents per meal on costs such as transportation and has donated 30,000 meals to Maryland food banks and homeless shelters

          "Food Recovery Network co-founder Ben Simon, a University of Maryland senior, is helping Ervin and other officials plan for the countywide program. He has experience in dealing with such challenges as potential donors who fear a lawsuit if their food makes someone sick. A federal law passed in 1996 protects donors from liability in such situations, he said.....

          “'There’s not a food shortage problem in our nation,” Slye said. “There’s a food distribution problem.'”

          [ETA: this was supposed to be a reply to the whole thread, not just to nikki in particular...]

        2. I know in SF this was a much touted option at one point:

          I'm not sure how well it actually works logistically.

          1 Reply
          1. re: goldangl95

            That is totally awesome. 200 volunteers is a lot. Wonder if it can replicated in other cities...

          2. I have been in many restaurants late in the evening and have known a number of restaurant owners...have never heard "take it or we'll throw it." What kind of restaurants are you talking about and in what part of the country? Totally new to me.

            2 Replies
            1. re: escondido123

              As a regular at several establishments I will often be offered extra dishes or food cooked in error. At the end of the night I will regularly be asked if I want the extra chips or some other item that they don't plan to hold overnight. The expectation is always that it will get tossed if not consumed. I consider this a benefit of being a regular but have never experienced a "take it or we'll throw it" situation at somewhere I am not well known.

              1. re: MonMauler

                Generally these goodies are reserved for servers and cooks. Even as a regular patron I have never been offered such food.

            2. Our local foodbank (we are not in SF) doesn't accept anyhing other than non-perishable foods in original packaging. This is due to logistics as well as concerns about food sfatey. Our local soup kitchen only serves what is prepared on site other than bread. This is so they know what goes into the food and so they can avoid overly rich/unusual ingredients which actually can be troublesome for digestive systems used to only the simplest foods.

              1. Are you talking about prepared perishable foods, the kind of thing that needs to go into the cooler that night? Are you sure there are organizations that will pick up that kind of thing, and are prepared to store it properly till use? If this sort of 'waste' really bothers you, may you can arrange to be the volunteer who does the pickup.