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L.A. council wants city departments to find ways to donate leftovers to the hungry

July 21, 2010 |  2:37 pm
The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday voted to have city departments come up with policies so leftover food from programs and events can go to hungry people -- an effort to eventually make donating surplus food as common as recycling, the sponsors said.

Departments, and elected officials, are to develop policies and procedures to donate surplus food to food banks or other agencies that provide food to people who need it. The food might come from events, catered meetings or other occasions.

An estimated 1 million people in Los Angeles County receive food assistance, according to the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. An estimated 5 million tons of food are wasted annually in California, said Councilman Jose Huizar, who introduced legislation last year to create the donation program.

The L.A. Convention Center already donates surplus food from the more than 400 events a year and its restaurants. It works with the Union Rescue Mission, Midnight Mission and other agencies, according to a report from the Chief Legislative analyst .

Huizar’s office did not know how much food might be available, but noted that after a recent Convention Center event, enough food was donated to serve more than 3,000 people.
Rick Coca, Huizar’s spokesman, said the idea is to create “a cultural shift,” and to encourage relationships between city departments and agencies that provide food.

Huizar, at a news conference outside City Hall before the vote, said he hopes that donating surplus food will become second-nature, akin to recycling, and he hopes to broaden the idea eventually to include private organizations and businesses.

“This is part of a larger process and a larger effort to do more as a city to make sure we are putting food on the tables of those who need it,” he said.

Huizar was joined by Councilman Paul Koretz, co-sponsor of the plan, and representatives from several anti-hunger organizations, including Hunger Action L.A. – which lobbied for a surplus donation program at a rally last year.

 “This is a no-brainer from my perspective,” said Barbara Bergen, acting president of Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “How could it not be the law?”

The city’s 311 information line gives potential donors contacts for agencies that take food donations. Huizar also noted that laws protect donors from liability.

-- Mary MacVean

Read more food news on The Times' Daily Dish blog.