Why Send Good Food to Landfills While Millions Go Hungry?

Discarded food accounts for a quarter of all household waste in California. And it’s not just individuals: when you add in food dumped by restaurants, supermarkets, and other food service companies, that adds up to more than six million tons of food dumped annually. For the entire country, that number is closer to fourteen billion.

Meanwhile, about 30 million Americans risk going hungry.

We know we need to reduce the amount of waste going into our landfills. So how can people, restaurants, and grocers throw out edible food, especially while so many people go hungry?

You can decrease the amount of food waste in your house by buying only what you’ll eat for the week, and not stocking up on perishable foods. When you do have food waste, compost. This will dispose of your food and nourish your garden.

Many grocery chains and restaurants are worried about liabilities — but a federal law, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, greatly minimizes liability when donations are made in good faith. Sometimes they throw out food purely for cosmetic reasons, like bruises and bumps on produce. Donating these foods is an easy, no-cost way to help people and the planet.

One former supermarket employee says, “I had to throw out 10-pound hams that weren’t even touched. It was easily 50 pounds of food a night.” Some people have taken to searching grocery and restaurant dumpsters for usable, free food. The freegan movement may still be seen as extreme, but it makes a point: at least a portion of the discarded food is edible and safe. And although many food retailers might participate in hunger-relief programs, like food drives, they’re still wasting tons of good food.

In California, less than 1,000 of the state’s 90,000 restaurants donate to Food Donation Connection, the organization that partners with the National Restaurant Association to link restaurants and food service establishments  with surplus food, to hunger relief agencies. Chipotle, Olive Garden, and The Cheesecake Factory are among the restaurants who have partnered with Food Donation Connection’s Harvest Program.

Donating usable excess food, rather than adding to America’s massive land fills, would be an easy way to have a tremendous impact on our environment and help the hungry. There’s no excuse for good food going to waste, especially considering donations made in good faith are protected by the law. 

Please sign this petition asking the Food Industry Association Executives to encourage all food retailers to donate — not dump — usable food, thus helping people and the environment.

photo credit: istock


Sheri P.
Sheri P6 years ago

Insane! They should definitely be donating food not throwing it out...that is, food that is still good.

Amber M.
Amber Beasley7 years ago

signed! they should definitely be donating all the food instead of wasting it!!

Megan M.
Megan M7 years ago

Signed! I agree 100%. This is very important and should be dealt with! So everyone, please, sign the petition, it is needed.

Pat Tyler
Pat Tyler7 years ago

I will check with tour local organic food store
on their food lefovers. Thanks so much

Dottie R.
.7 years ago

Also, leftover foods from your large family gatherings can be donated to certain food banks, it took me some searching on the internet to finally find a food kitchen that would take already prepared foods that were leftover, but they took it with a smile. So, its worth searching out in your areas for places ahead of time, so when you do have food to donate, you have a thankful receiver..

Kelly T.
Kelly T7 years ago

There is only one restaurant in my town that donates unsold food to homeless shelters the area. It is really sad how much food we waste I try not to waste as much as possible.

Wassiliisia G.
Wassiliisia G8 years ago

Thanks for sharing this.

Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat8 years ago

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
M. F. K. Fisher

pj dickenson
pj dickenson8 years ago

The amounts of waste is staggering and shameful. No woder America gets such a bad rap in other countries.

Yulan L.
Yulan Lawson8 years ago

I think it's a great idea to share the food. There's nothing wrong with it. I know of a mob who gives meals, pies, cakes, drinks for free to the homeless and all the food comes from restaurant's donations. The laws have changed thanks to health & safety. Weird things they create. I remember one day they decided that all butchers had to stop using saw dust on the floors and soon after, no more wooden chopping blocks used to cut up the meat. These two things have been connected to butchers for years and years and years, if not centuries. I don't recall anyone getting sick from these two things, but yet they said no more due to health and safety. They don't make sense with what rules they make.