Guides, Uncategorized

A Restaurant’s Guide: Donating Food Waste & Feeding the Hungry

40 million tons of food is wasted in the United States every single year — more than 25% of our total food supply. And especially after the pandemic, food insecurity in the US continues to be a pressing issue. As a hospitality industry professional, you’ve likely seen this type of waste first hand. Unfortunately, many restaurants hesitate donating their leftover food because the rules and regulations can feel unclear. You might wonder, is it allowed at all?

In short, yes, it is allowed! As a restaurant owner, you can contribute to initiatives that are aiding the problem of hunger while decreasing landfill waste. Let’s walk through the guidelines and benefits of donating and where to begin. 

Photo Credits: Joel Muniz —

What are the rules?

Up until now, you may have avoided donating leftover food, unsure if you’re held liable for any harm or to what degree you are at risk. However, most liabilities are covered by the federal law, the “The Good Samaritan Act.” In general, you want to follow a few practices to make the process successful for both you and your food bank partner. 

First, you’ll want to check expiration dates, as expired food cannot be distributed by the foodbank. Second, be sure to only donate food that has not been served. For example, if you prepare ten portions of buffet-style pasta for a party, consider only bringing out portations as they’re needed. The unused portions can then be donated if they have not been put in front of restaurant guests! 

What are the benefits of donating?

Feeding the homeless and hungry.

Donating unused food is a tremendous help to the organizations trying to do just that. It’s a generous and tangible way to better your community and beyond that, it can benefit your business! 

Most importantly, it’s an outward facing display of your company’s values and participation in its community. It’s also a good way to get rid of hard-to-move stock that takes up space on your shelves. This could mean an out of season item, or just simply something that doesn’t appeal to your customer base anymore. 

Where do I donate?

When you’re ready to start donating, you’ll want to choose a food bank to build a relationship that will flourish on all fronts. Find a food bank near you and contact them to find their practices: what do they accept, when do they take donations, and what do they need most?

There are many great options from Chicago to the suburbs. You can start by entering your zip code into the reputable Feeding America search tool.

Photo Credits: Joel Muniz —

Suggested Food Banks:

Elmhurst-Yorkfield Food Pantry

1083 S York St., Elmhurst, IL 60126

(630) 782-1066.

Greater Chicago Food Depository

4100 West Ann Lurie Place, Chicago, IL 60632

(773) 247-3663.

Central Illinois Foodbank

1937 E. Cook, Springfield, IL 62703

(217) 522-4022.