Culinary no-no began on Father’s Day 2007, a beautiful summer day, when I wrote about grilling brats. And eating brats. And topping those brats. I was inspired by my wife, Jennifer who, in my admittedly unscientific opinion, ruins brats by squirting ketchup on them. Other dining taboos quickly came to mind. The original idea was to take this concept only a few months, till the end of summer and then pull the plug. Then the unexpected happened. People started reading Culinary no-no. Lots of folks. So we keep doing the no-no.
The family went to IKEA for breakfast the other day.
Behind Kyla is the Swedish breakfast with scrambled eggs, potatoes, pancakes with lingonberries, chicken sausage.
Say what? Hey, Kev. You’re not even thinking about blasting IKEA, are you?
We’ll get back to IKEA in a bit.
When I’m at a restaurant I tend to be, not nosy, but observant.
Why is it when waitstaff walks by me with numerous plates I find myself saying, “I should have ordered that.”
And have you seen this?
Half-eaten plates are sent back to the kitchen with diners opting not to take the rest home in a doggie bag.
Makes one wonder.
This month I read a stunning stat on the website Stateline:
Nationally, just 2 percent of restaurants say they donate their unused food.
The Food Waste Reduction Alliance found that 84.3% of unused food in American restaurants ends up being disposed of, while 14.3% is recycled, and only 1.4% is donated.
At the risk of sounding less than insightful, how come?
Don’t restaurants want to donate? They most assuredly do.
Sarah Bateman, Natural Resources Stewardship Committee Chair in Orem, Utah, maintains there’s too much confusion about the donation process.
Now there’s a shocker. Rules and regulations created by bureaucrats are keeping people hungry.
“If produce is whole or uncut, you can easily and legally donate it to food banks and shelters,” Bateman said. “Once you cut into it or prepare it in any way, the rules change. Different countries, states, and counties might take slightly different approaches to food safety, preparation and waste.”
Then you have the threat of lawyers knocking on your doors. Many restaurants fear potential liabilities they may face when donating food (Some restaurants do send unused food home with employees).
The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 (BEGSA) protects those donating from civil or criminal liability except in the case of “gross negligence or intentional misconduct.” The law has been on the books for 22 years. Next time you’re in a restaurant ask the owner if he/she even knows about it.
Again, laws pertaining to donated food vary from Pennsylvania down to Dixie’s sunny shore. And who wants to spend the time and money to seek protection from the federal BEGSA? The answer is probably no one.
Complicating matters is the The National Restaurant Association that has guidelines for donating food. Complicated as in 50 pages. Let’s take a brief look.
Donating prepared foods
Because many charitable meal providers cannot afford professional kitchen staff or much more than the most basic ingredients, donating prepared dishes to food programs is one of the best ways restaurants and others in the hospitality industry can contribute to the fight against hunger.
Donating leftover prepared items not only keeps the dishes from going to waste, but these foods help add diversity to often staple-based menus. Restaurant donations allow the industry to have not only a quantitative but a qualitative impact on the meals served in such programs, which can make the difference between feeling full and feeling satisfied.
Dishes that can be quick-chilled and/or frozen and then easily readied for serving at the meal site, or that are prepared hot or cold and kept hot or cold for timely consumption, are appropriate for donation. The key to safe donation of prepared food is the proper man- agement of the food’s temperature, handling and storage times.
When donating prepared foods, restaurateurs should:
- avoid dishes containing potentially hazardous foods that have been heated, chilled and reheated, such as chicken that has been given a second or third life in a stew
- store dishes in shallow, one-use recyclable aluminum pans or clear-plastic food-grade bags
- package donations in smaller containers, such as shallow pans, rather than larger ones so that recipients can maintain the food’s temperature and prepare only the amounts that will be consumed at one sitting
- label and date all containers so that their contents can be identified and used or destroyed within a safe period of time
- keep hot dishes to be consumed immediately at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above
- refrigerate and/or freeze cold items that will not be immediately consumed-this procedure should not be followed for hot food
- never add warm leftovers to a container of chilled or frozen food
- keep donated food products separate to avoid cross contamination
- discard any food items that may have been handled by anyone except kitchen staff
- know what time a hot dish was prepared, the temperature and how long it took to cool to assure that foods are not kept in the danger zone of 41 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than four hours.
OK, can you really blame restaurants if they simply throw up their hands and scream “Fuhgeddaboudit!”
In a nutshell meals served warm must stay warm and cold foods such as produce must stay cold from the time they are prepared to the time they are served at the donation facility, including during transportation.
So restaurant food gets tossed. But it’s not just restaurants.
A 2012 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that Americans throw away almost half of their food, amounting to $165 billion wasted annually.
There’s more from the NRDC.
America throws out more than 400 pounds of food per person per year. And when that food is wasted, so are the resources that go into producing it, including 21 percent of freshwater used by the U.S. agricultural industry. Wasted food also generates climate change pollution equivalent to 37 million cars per year. If we could redirect just one-third of the food that we now toss to people in need, it would more than cover unmet food needs across the country.
America needs more places like Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a national 501(c)3 non-profit food rescue organization, operating in 16 cities and headquartered in New York City, that provides solutions to prevent excess wholesome cuisine from being wasted. After identifying the homeless shelters of a needy community, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine proactively finds restaurants, hotels, and catering companies with excess food in that vicinity that could help support these disadvantaged communities.
Stateline reports on the efforts of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine and others and the challenges they face, including the fact that “businesses can currently write off the cost of food they throw away.”
And finally, IKEA.
The huge retailer is amazing for many reasons. Here’s one of them.
And so here’s a rare moment of Culinary no-no ending on a positive note.
CULINARY NO-NO BONUS