How to connect with recipients for food donations

food donation graphic


We are closed Sunday through Tuesday, and we try to change most of the menu weekly. That means I am often left with product on Saturday nights that can be donated. How can I connect with someone who can pick it up on a regular schedule?

– Donnell Jones-Craven, General Manager, Eat Cafe, Philadelphia


We have discussed opportunities to donate leftovers and other surplus food before, but your question about how to actually find someone to donate to and how to get them to pick it up is a rapidly changing and exciting landscape for those—like me—who hate to see good food go to waste.

Not long ago, I might have told you to reach out to your local food bank or municipal homeless services organization that will likely keep a database or map of food banks, soup kitchens and shelters in your area that will accept donations of food that is safe to eat or repurpose. And many such maps exist and are great resources. The challenge, of course, is that they may not operate on your schedule. Can you really get someone to pick up food every Saturday night after service at 11 p.m., for example?

But now, there’s an app for that—actually quite a few. App developers are realizing that the same kinds of technology tools that may help you find someone to—ahem—date in your area may help restaurants, caterers and others with more food than they need connect to organizations that would be grateful to receive it. I prefer one such app, Food Connect, that was launched for the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. I love its simplicity—you select “I have food,” “I need food” or “I can drive,” and the app does the rest. You may want to start there.

With increasing concern and awareness of food waste as a global problem, operators are increasingly encouraged to save whatever is safe to eat from the dumpster, saving money on carting, doing good, giving them a tax benefit, and protecting the environment (food waste is the largest component in most landfills and a producer of greenhouse gases). Ocean County, California, is ahead of the curve on this topic, even having its health inspectors provide education on how operators can safely donate their surplus and avoid liability concerns.

More on donating leftovers here.