According to the National Restaurant Association, nine out of 10 restaurants are involved in some type of community service. Why not transform your leftover food and possible waste into a way to give back to the community?
Thousands of pounds of food end up in landfills each year, yet some restaurants have reservations when it comes to providing their leftovers to local food banks. The reason for this is usually lack of procedure and the fear of being sued.
The Salvation Army says many companies don’t give away their leftover food because of health concerns. They don’t want to be responsible for providing tainted meals or food that might cause people to be sick — not that they are providing bad food, but once it leaves the restaurant, they don’t know where the food is going. However, this is no longer a problem. Since 1997, the BC Provincial Government unanimously passed Bill 10 which protects donors from liability when donating perishable goods, and in 1994, Ontario passed the Donation of Food Act and the Good Samaritan Law. Other provinces have similar laws in place to protect those who are willing to donate. Restaurants should check their local regulations for full details.
The other most common reason for not donating food is that it’s not part of the restaurant’s policy. This could mean a number of things, but one concern restaurants mention is that if they do decide to donate, they have to arrange for extra food storage and a staff member to pack the food. They are also concerned about giving consistent amounts and getting reliable people to do the pickup.
Getting Started in a Donation Program
Donating leftover food doesn’t have to be complicated. The easiest way to get a program in place is to contact one of many food banks across the country. Many of them will take the initiative to redistribute your leftover food to people who need it. They are also experienced in partnering with food service organizations and are professionals when it comes to working with restaurants that are new
to donating food.
The Salvation Army in Montreal is one example. They will not only tell you what types of food are acceptable, but may even come pick up the food from your establishment. They have programs like this in place with many of Montreal’s hotels.
Another example is the Greater Vancouver Food Bank which feeds up to 25,000 people each week. In addition to having a main bank, they also have a program called Food Runners that picks up perishable food from hotels, caterers, cafeterias, restaurants and bakeries. They then bring the food to organizations such as women’s shelters, hospices, and youth and adult recovery programs. In 2005, they collected over 700,000 lbs of perishable food in the Vancouver area and provided 1.5 million meals and snacks.
Donating food, not waste
As chefs and restaurants owners, you try to order just enough food so that you don’t have waste at the end of the day. But according to the Vancouver Food Bank, even a small amount of leftover food can be stretched to help feed up to 200 people. For example, a small amount of left over soup can be made into healthy, filling stews.
Some guidelines to help organize your food donations:
- Food banks accept all types of food items ranging from dry, refrigerated, frozen and paper and disposable products.
- Perishable foods are accepted as long as they haven’t left the kitchen. Leftovers from a patron’s table, unpasteurized dairy products, spoiled foods,
un-inspected wild game and foods that have not been stored between 4ºC-60ºC are not accepted.
- Home canned foods, particularly meat, fish, vegetables or combination foods such as antipasto cannot be donated.
- Licensed restaurants and food operators who have been approved by a health agency can submit meat and meat products, dairy, eggs, seafood, soups, cream or meat-filled pastries, and meat pumpkin pies.
- Food that has been put out in a buffet is not acceptable to be picked up. A solution to this is to use smaller bins in your buffet table and only put out the food as it’s needed. This way the
unused portions will be leftover in the kitchen which is a safe area for donations.
To find the name of a food bank in your area, visit www.cafb-acba.ca.
By Michelle Ponto