Hunger and Food Waste are Tied Together. Finally, we have a piece of legislation that combats both.
Thanks to my friend Congressman Jim McGovern
Hello my friends!
Many years ago, in the early 1990s (ancient history!) I was lucky enough to meet Robert Egger, a former nightclub manager who was frustrated by the charitable responses to hunger and homelessness he’d seen. Robert, who would become a dear friend and mentor, was inspired to launch an entirely new concept for a nonprofit that aimed at two issues we face as a society…we should not be wasting food, and we should not be wasting people. By training men and women in the kitchen who were formerly incarcerated and others who were experiencing homelessness, and at the same time buying vegetables and taking leftover food from caterers and restaurants (and the White House!), he showed that we could answer both questions at the same time.
As you might know, his organization, DC Central Kitchen, became a huge success. For more than 30 years now, DCCK has been both running a culinary training program as well as receiving literally tons of food waste and turning it into meals for those in need. It is an incredible success story of one person inspiring a community to think creatively about a problem and finding a solution that makes a big impact!
Robert was, and still is, a huge inspiration to me. I started volunteering for DCCK back when I was just starting out as chef at Jaleo, and began to put the pieces together about how the restaurant industry could work together to fight hunger and advance food policy to create positive change. And while I didn’t realize it at the time, my early days with Robert at DCCK planted the seeds of what is today World Central Kitchen (don’t worry…I’ll tell more of that story in a future post!).
My team and I at Jaleo made our first food donation to DCCK under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need.
The law was a great start, but it fell short in a few ways…like that food donors were still open to liability for making donations directly to people in need (as opposed to donating through a nonprofit), and it didn’t protect businesses who donated food at a deep discount. Despite the steps forward we’ve taken, today 42 million Americans face food insecurity every year, and 35% of all the food in this country goes to waste! To me, it just doesn’t make sense.
But people of America! I am very excited to say that we are finally at a place where we have a bipartisan piece of legislation that has been introduced in the House and the Senate that improves and expands upon the original Good Samaritan Act.
The Food Donation Improvement Act will make simple fixes to make sure perfectly good food can feed the millions of American families who struggle with hunger every year. If you want to get into the details of the Act, you can read the text here.
It’s estimated that the Food Donation Improvement Act will help provide immediate relief to food insecure individuals and families, while also reducing billions of pounds of food waste. This is the power of pragmatic and collaborative food policy!
My friend Congressman Jim McGovern, Chair of the Congressional Hunger Center, worked so hard to bring this piece of legislation to life and has been a champion of this cause for many years. He and I have worked together on many different initiatives over the years, but this is a special one.
As he wrote to me in an email: “Our friendship has been the catalyst for some incredible, substantive legislative achievements, and I’m proud to work together to advance this bill in Congress.”
“America is a land of plenty,” he continued. “We have more than enough food to feed every single person in this country who is hungry—what we lack is the political will in Washington to end hunger. One in eight Americans is likely to experience food insecurity this year, yet thirty-five percent of all the food in this country goes to waste. The gap between abundance and need is unjust and indefensible, and we have a moral obligation to fix it. That’s why we’re fighting to make sure that no food goes to waste—and that farmers, restaurant owners, and small businesses who have extra food can donate it without fear of putting themselves in legal jeopardy.”
For every single American who has gone to sleep hungry, who knows what it’s like to give up your dinner so that your child can eat…let’s get this bill passed! Reach out to your Congressperson and ask them to support this bill…and continue to make food policies that make meaningful change to the lives of all of us.
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