Most U.S. households waste more food that they can imagine or would like to admit, and the United States collectively throws away a full quarter of its food. And restaurants – known these days for over-sized portions and being strangers to the “less-is-more” motto – are no different. So, Tony Parrill and the staff at Fat Tuna decided to do something about it.
Parrill – who runs the kitchen and helps out with the family-owned restaurant alongside his brother Steve, sister-in law Michelle and father Carl – said the amount of food wasted really started to dawn on him after their annual pig roast celebrating the start of the NFL season.
“We had about 120 pounds of pulled pork left over,” said Parrill. “That could easily feed 200 people. That’s when I really started looking into it.”
Parrill called around to local churches, looking to donate the meat, and eventually was hooked up with Lou Travalini of Mariner’s Bethel Church. Travalini got Carol Lloyd – Mariner’s children’s ministry director – involved; and the three have formed their own informal food bank/food-rescue mission. Just recently, Parrill donated 40 pounds of frozen chicken wings and 5 gallons of pumpkin bisque.
“I bought the wrong size wings, and the soup isn’t old. But if I didn’t sell it soon, I’d have to throw it away,” he explained.
Much of the food comes from catering jobs where, often, there is excess food prepared to begin with. For a party of 50 to 60 people, they might prepare enough for more than that and end up with only 30 guests. So, often, there is perfectly good prepared food that would get thrown out if the host didn’t want it.
“You know the party’s over and people want to go home,” said Parrill, stating that often, the food is paid for, but the clients have no need for it at the end of the celebration. “I’ve never gone without a meal, and I’m sure it’s not nice,” he added.
Parrill said he wants people to be assured that the food being donated is quality food but, often, restaurants can tell when something is not going to sell or excess has been prepared, so instead of planning on throwing it out, he now makes plans to call Lloyd.
“Sometimes you prep too much – and what’s the point of throwing it away?” asked Parrill. “I can just imagine the people that need it – especially the kids.”
Mariner’s Bethel is unique in that they have a commercial-grade kitchen that could hold 500 pounds of food overnight, if need be, so they have the means to execute a mission like this. Smaller or less well-equipped churches or programs are often restricted to dealing with donations of canned food, or to smaller quantities and different types of food.
For example, Jo Richardson, a St. Ann’s Catholic Church parishioner, picks up bread and other sweet baked goods from Food Lion in Millville twice a week that she then takes to Casa San Francisco, a homeless shelter in Milton run by Catholic Charities.
“It’s amazing how generous they are,” said Richardson of Food Lion.
According to Food Lion’s corporate offices, through efforts such as their annual end-of-year campaign, as well as year-round donations of non-sellable but safe-to-eat food products, they donate nearly 17,400 tons of food annually – valued at approximately $38 million – to Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest), “the Nation’s Food Bank Network.”
“It’s a big initiative for us to feed the hungry, as a company and as a store,” said Karen Peterson of Food Lion Corporate Communications.
The trio running this informal mission at Mariner’s Bethel wants to sign on other area churches and restaurants and people in a position to help. With such an excess of food, no one should have to go hungry, they say. And they want people to know that this is not just a one time thing or a holiday thing – it is something they want to continue to grow and something they want other people to get involved with.
“All it takes is a phone call,” said Parrill.
Lloyd has already taken food to a homeless shelter in Salisbury, Md., as well as to The Way Home, a Georgetown-based non-profit that assists ex-offenders transition from prison to life in the community, and to local families right in the immediate area.
“We want this to not only be local, but national and eventually global,” said Travalini. “We believe we can make a difference, no matter where we go.”
“We are hoping that local restaurants will pick up the phone and feed somebody that can’t otherwise put together a decent meal. They just have to make the effort,” offered Travalini.
“And it’s not much of an effort,” interjected Parrill.
They also hope that the longstanding presence of Mariner’s Bethel in the community – it just recently celebrated its 150th anniversary – will appeal to restaurant owners who want to make sure that their excess food will go where it is needed.
And restaurant owners who might otherwise be hesitant to donate foods to anyone, for fear of liability, should check out the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The Act converts Title IV of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (known as the Model Good Samaritan Food Donation Act) into permanent law, within the Child Nutrition Act of 1966.
According to the USDA, the Act is “designed to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to nonprofit organizations, such as homeless shelters, soup kitchens and churches, for distribution to needy individuals.”
It promotes food recovery by limiting the liability of donors to instances of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. It further states that, “absent gross negligence or intentional misconduct, persons, gleaners and nonprofit organizations shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging or condition of apparently wholesome food or apparently fit grocery products received as donations.”
For the text of the Act, go to http://www.usda.gov/news/pubs/gleaning/appc.htm online.
Restaurants or local churches who want to see how they can get involved can call Lou Travalini at (302) 745-2499 or 1-888-COAST 34, or Carol Lloyd at (302) 245-2647.