Street people know that one place to get a meal is the dumpster behind the neighborhood restaurant. Why? Because the laws in many states require restaurants to dispose of any unused food that has been prepared for serving. The dumpster isn't the most sanitary serving counter, however, and many restaurants, fearing legal consequences, have taken steps to prevent access by outsiders.
Two U.S. representatives from Missouri, Republican Bill Emerson and Democrat Pat Danner, think this is a waste (so to speak). They are alarmed at the fact that 26 million Americans -- 11 million of them children -- regularly visit inner-city soup kitchens in hopes of being fed. And last year, 18 percent of them were turned away hungry.
Representatives Emerson and Danner are sponsoring a bill that would make it easier for restaurants around the country to donate leftovers to food-assistance programs. The bill would offer protection to food donors from liability suits. Such legislation is needed to encourage restaurateurs, who are very hesitant to take even the smallest legal risk when it comes to the safety of the food they serve -- or give away.
For one newspaper's coverage of this story, see Bill Would Save Leftovers for the Hungry, in the Seattle Times Web Archive.