Magazine article Tikkun

Where Tzedakah Begins: Feeding Hungry People

Magazine article Tikkun

Where Tzedakah Begins: Feeding Hungry People

Article excerpt

WHERE TZEDAKAH BEGINS: Feeding Hungry People

Danny Siegel is the author of twenty books including Good People, a collection of essays about everyday people who are Mitzvah heroes and Tell Me a Mitzvah, Tzedakah stories for children.

I can tell a person's age by how he or she finishes this sentence, often heard in childhood from a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle: "Eat everything on your plate because they are starving in..." Older people answer, "Europe." Others say, "China," "India," "Africa," "Biafra," "Ethiopia," or "Right down the street." Whatever the answer, we can do something about that, far beyond what we ever considered possible, and in a relatively simple manner.

Jewish tradition demands of us that we not waste edible food. The name of the mitzvah is bal tashchit, which means "senseless waste." I believe it is time to go into high gear on this particular mitzvah.

Some Stories, Some Facts and Some Figures

According to a study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1997, Americans waste 97,000,000,000 pounds of edible food each year--one-fourth of all the food produced for edible consumption. (Be stunned. Even be skeptical and say the USDA exaggerates for whatever reason. Say it is only 23,000,000,000 pounds of food. The question remains: What shall we do about it?)

1. Mrs. Fields Cookies has a policy: if an item has not been sold within two hours, it is set aside and donated at the end of the day to a worthy agency feeding hungry people.

2. In 1995, seven Pizza Hut TM restaurants in the Springfield, MA, area donated 28,496 pounds of food.

3. Starbucks makes sure that any new franchise that opens has to have in place an appropriate location to receive the leftover items they donate.

4. Hilton Hotels Corporation sent out an eight-page company-wide directive that states in part, "Our hotels often have prepared food available from over-production that can be donated to charitable organizations for service to their constituencies. All owned and managed hotels are to support this effort by donating surplus food to suitable organizations in their area to establish and implement a program and procedures in accordance with this SPI [Standard Practice Instructions]."

5. Leftovers from Baltimore Orioles games at Camden Yards are donated.

Three Easy Steps:

The mighty list grows mightier. We can add to the list.

1. Contact Food Chain, The National Food Rescue Network. They are an umbrella organization for tzedakah food pick-up services in many of our communities. 912 Baltimore, #300, Kansas City, MO 64105, Attn: Christina A. Martin, email:, website:, 816-842-6006, toll-free information: 800-845-3008, fax: 816-842-5145. If they do not have an associated group in your city, call the local shelter or soup kitchen and see if they have a local pick-up and delivery contact person. If they don't, be prepared to start with a grassroots, at-least-pick-up-150-bagels-before-they-go-into-the-dumpster project.

2. When talking to any food establishment, have in hand a copy of the liability (i.e., non-liability) law regarding food donations commonly known as "The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act." The relevant passage [section (c)(1)] reads as follows: "Liability for damages from donated food and grocery products. (1) Liability of person or gleaner. A person or gleaner shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product that the person or gleaner donates in good faith to a nonprofit organization for ultimate distribution to needy individuals. …

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