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Why is so much food tossed out?

March 25, 2009 |  5:16 pm

Every night, large quantities of food are thrown away by markets all over the country. Credit: Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times. In his latest column, "Come on, people -- human hunger trumps politics and hassle," David Lazarus wonders...

At a time when record numbers of people are losing their homes, unemployment is rising and a growing number of families are in need, California caterers, hotels and restaurants throw out roughly 1.5 million tons of perfectly good food every year, according to the state Integrated Waste Management Board.

And you know what? If you're the one springing for that hotel banquet, wedding party or corporate event, you have the right to insist that any leftovers be donated to charity.

In fact, a 1996 federal law specifically shields people from liability for any problems resulting from food donations -- if someone gets sick, say.

So why is so much food ending up in the dumpster?

Basically, it's too much hassle. Progressive caterers are the exception. And when State Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach) introduced a bill, SB 1443, that required that caterers inform clients they have the option of donating uneaten food to charity, it was nuked by the California Restaurant Assn.

As Lazarus says: "It's unbelievably sad that the various parties in this equation can't come together for a genuine solution. The only barrier to getting all that food to people who need it is a little effort on everyone's part to make the appropriate arrangements." Click here to read more.

--Elina Shatkin

Photo: Every night, large quantities of food are thrown away by markets all over the country.

Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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