Donating “Prepared” Meals – Issues for Food Outlets to Consider- “Uber for Leftovers”

David Lazarus penned an interesting column in today’s Los Angeles Times where he noted that, “[Stabucks’] has taken a leadership role in addressing domestic hunger by announcing that it intends to donate all its leftover food to charity.

“This year, Starbucks aims to provide nearly 5 million meals to food banks nationwide from its roughly 7,600 outlets. Within five years, it says, that figure should rise to 50 million meals annually.”

Mr. Lazarus explained that, “Here’s what all other restaurants, hotels, caterers and other food business need to understand: [The] challenge [of finding a way to preserve the food’s quality during delivery] isn’t insurmountable. Nor is the question of legal liability, which I know from past columns on this topic is the chief concern when it comes to donating prepared food.”

Today’s column noted that, “[Michael Flood, president of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank] said Starbucks’ donations will be relatively easy to handle. Because we’re mainly talking about sandwiches, it won’t be difficult to keep them refrigerated until they’re ready to be eaten…[T]he greater challenge remains hot food served at restaurants, weddings, corporate functions and other events.”

More specifically, Mr. Lazarus stated that, “Many restaurants and hotels don’t donate leftovers to charity because they think they’ll be subject to lawsuits if someone gets sick. What they often don’t know is that the federal Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act shields most donors from legal liability.

The catch is that the law doesn’t protect charities that receive donated food, which must ensure that any meals served meet all local and state health requirements. Many charities will decline donations of prepared food rather than run the risk of serving potentially unhealthy meals.”

In conclusion, today’s column indicated that, “I see a business opportunity in coordinating pickup and prompt delivery of prepared food to soup kitchens and shelters — with funding, perhaps, from companies that aren’t directly involved in the food business but want to help feed the hungry.

“The pitch: Uber for leftovers.

“Help yourself, entrepreneurs.”

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