Starting an organization to save food that is being thrown out and feed the poor?

I know grocery stores and restaurants throw out food that is getting old (not necessarily bad) and I think it would be great to organize people to collect this food and feed the poor/homeless. I understand that stores do not want to be held responsible if anyone gets ill and neither would I. I would try my absolute hardest to ensure the food is good to eat and make the origin of the food known to anyone who would eat it.
How should I go about this? I am sure there are legal issues involved. Please give me any advice you can. Love you guys!



  1. 0 Votes

    Turn the whole question around, and ask why so much food is thrown out by individuals and companies. The reason are: Economics and convenience.

    I live in an apartment with recycle bins. I regularly put things out that I don’t need. Electronics? Those disappear immediately. Full, unopened bags of food that I bought multiples of, but then decided not to use, for whatever reason? They sit in the hot sun for days, until I throw them away.

    There are lots of lessons here. Even very hungry people generally don’t want food they aren’t familiar with. If they eat Corn Flakes for breakfast, and pizza for dinner — that’s what they want. A bag of expensive, nutritious flour is NOT what they want.

    Economics is equally important. Gallons of milk are poured down the drain by stores such as Safeway, every day. It is still drinkable, and absolutely could be used in cooking without much noticable effect. So why does it happen? Because it’s a business. If they just gave it away after a few days, many people wouldn’t bother to pay for it. I might occasionally do it myself! I’m going to feed the milk to pets, or wash my hair in it. But not if I have to pay for it!

    The bottom line is there is often a reason for food being thrown out. Sometimes the reason is no more profound than it’s too much trouble to use something. Or it’s not that appealing warming leftovers. There’s no silver bullet here. There are reasons that food goes to waste.

    • 0 Votes

      This does not at all answer my question.
      The reason food gets thrown out is because it is hard to sell ugly produce and products. A lot of edible food is thrown out and it is sad considering so many are starving.
      When I was younger, I went to bakeries and picked up day old bread. The poor very much appreciated it.

      How can you speak for the hungry? Trouble is something I am willing to deal with and for the food to be appealing is up to the hungry to the decide.

    • 0 Votes

      If it was easy and practical to give that food to the poor — people would already be doing that to a much greater extent. Chances are in many situations it’s cheaper to throw the food away, and just pay poor people to buy other food. I.e., in many cases it may not be *economical* to save the food. In other cases, stores regard that food as their property — they have no intention of giving it away.

      To solve a complex problem, it’s important to understand why things are they way they are. In our complex society, there are almost always reasons.

    • 0 Votes

      If it was so cheap to feed the poor, why are there so many hungry people? The food that is being thrown out is already there, FREE. How can this not be “economical” ?

      The fact that some stores will never give out food is irrelevant. This would be an option and a decision that they would make. You cannot use this as your argument.

      As far as business failing due to stores giving out food has been proven wrong. Some Paneras give away day old bread and bagels for free and they are still in business. The food I would be collecting is not bad, just not as appealing. Perfectly edible.

      You do not have the answer to my question.

    • 0 Votes


      Near me is a small market that keeps food FAR past its prime. The old food is also heavily discounted. There are plenty of poor people around, many Hispanics. But where do they shop? At the regular markets. The cashiers can tell you what they buy (often with Food Stamps): Meats, pre-packaged, pre-prepared dinners, potato chips and other junk food. They won’t buy at the small store. They don’t want simple bread that’s three days past its expiration, they want expensive convenience food.

      So that’s the first problem.

      But let’s work through a scenario, ok? Let’s assume we can find a supply of food that needy people will accept. Some major store has agreed to give away old food, as long as we pick it up. So now we are confronted with logistics:

      You get in your car, and drive to see what’s available today. It takes some time and energy. Then you need to distribute the food. Two big choices I can see there are bringing it back to a central location, or going around ourselves to people’s homes. With the first choice, we would need to set up what’s basically a mini-market. We’d have to have freezers and refrigerators. And someone would need to stock the shelves, serve customers, etc. Probably we’d need a full time person there, to make sure the food wasn’t stolen, etc. At minimum wage that might be $60/day. There’s the rent on the store space, the electricity to run the lights and freezers. Probably a few hundred dollars a day. So this “free” food has actually cost a lot of money.

      The other option might be to bring things around to people’s homes. Then we get rid of the cost of maintaining the store. Now a new cost is the gas of driving the car all around town. And what happens when we get to someone’s home? Well, they’re not going to take just whatever we choose to give them. After all, they’re going to understand our system. They’re going to want all the stuff that’s expensive. And if we just give them bags of food with random contents? They’ll throw most of it out. I.e., they wanted T-Bone steak and frozen desserts, not turnips and low-fat yogurt.

      Now, you might be thinking that poor people wouldn’t act this way, but in fact I have a dear relative who lived on the poverty line for several years with her children. She and her family actually ate many things that were more expensive than my family did. (We were not on the poverty line.)

      After a few weeks of frustration, it suddenly occurs to us that much of the food we are “rescuing” isn’t being eaten. Many of the poor people are NOT grateful, just annoyed we don’t have steak for them this week.

      We take a look at our expenses and realize we would come out ahead if we just walked up to poor homes, and gave them the money we would have used for our operating expenses. They will happily take the $10. And buy steak.

    • 0 Votes

      P.S. I should have been clearer. Given a choice between shopping at the VERY economical small store (run by an Iranian), and Mi Pueblo, a relatively nice store, quite a few Hispanics will choose the nice store. Including those using food stamps. When I say “economical” understand that this guy will literally give old food away.

      But do this experiment yourself: Ask a cashier in any supermarket what people tend to buy with Food Stamps. I’ve done this a number of times, and always got the same answer. People with Food Stamps usually buy premium food, junk food, convenience food.

      We might expect: Hey, they’re going to buy rice, beans, milk and other nutritional basics. That’s not what happens.

  2. 0 Votes

    I love this idea, and I’ve actually thought about doing it myself. It obviously takes a lot of planning and hard work.

    I worked with a non-profit in DC that had a deal with some local bakeries where they would place unused bread/donuts/whatever in bags and then leave it for them to take and then distribute to the hungry as part of their breakfast the next morning. It was an awesome system because the products were still fresh! They were just a day old, but the bakeries normally throw out stuff that they don’t sell during the day. There are some legal hurdles, though–you can, like you said, be held responsible if someone gets sick from the stuff that you distributed.

    Since that non-profit was able to strike up such a deal with several bakeries, I’d bet that you can find some local bakeries or grocery stores that would be willing to do the same. It’s not like they’re losing money, anyway, since all of the stuff that they’d give you would be going in the trash anyway. Plus, it’s for a great cause. The only thing, though, is that they might be concerned with the legality of it; I’m sure they would be held responsible, too, if anyone got sick from the food.

    I would definitely make some calls to some local places to see who would be willing to donate their unbought food to you, and then go from there. I’d try to stick to independently-owned places, as they’d probably have less “red tape” to go through, if any at all, before they donate to you.

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