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Councilors propose making Boston supermarkets, large restaurants and arenas donate food they would otherwise throw away

City Councilors Ricardo Arroyo (Roslindale, Mattapan, Hyde Park) and Gabriela Coletta (Charlestown, East Boston, North End) today proposed a "food recovery" program aimed at getting more food to people who can't afford it by reducing the amount of food restaurants, hotels, colleges, sports arenas and event organizers now simply throw away at the end of the night.

The two will formally introduce their proposal, which would require "food generators" to donate the food that now goes into a dumpster to groups that would then redistribute it, at the City Council's meeting on Wednesday, to be overseen by a new city Office of Food Justice. With approval from other councilors, the measure would then go to a council committee for study and testimony before going back before the council for a vote.

The proposal would include food that is still safe to eat at the end of the day; unpackaged fresh meat, fish or poultry, along with contaminated or spoiled food would not be allowed.

The measure would apply to restaurants with more than 250 seats or 5,000 total indoor square feet, supermarkets of at least 10,000 square feet and hotels with at least 100 rooms with a kitchen, as well as "large venues and events," colleges and any K-12 schools that have on-site food preparation. Boston and state facilities that have large cafeterias would also be covered.

Under the proposal, these facilities and events would have to arrange to have any excess food at the end of the day delivered or picked up by a non-profit "food recovery organization" that would then deliver the food to groups that actually feed people, such as food pantries and food banks, soup kitchens and shelters.

Arroyo and Coletta said that with the proposal, Boston would join several cities in Europe that have similar programs - and would be the first US city to formally recycle food.

PDF icon Proposed ordinance180.4 KB


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Many of these places already donate extra food when they can.

Food that is past a best-by date and/or perishable is thrown out for legal reasons: These companies don't want to get sued by someone who gets sick when something happened in transit. And there's the whole issue of labeling and allergens -- who is responsible for ensuring this is communicated correctly? Who is responsible for making sure all the food safety regulations are followed?

Things like this work in Europe because the liability laws are such that there's less risk to the group making the donation.

Voting closed 71

Most of the establishments listed have left over food that is already cooked so it would seem that it would need to be consumed rather quickly. The way this reads it seems too much time would pass before the food got to folks that needs it.

For example, Fenway Park has 300 unsold franks at the end of a game. Fenway would then need to get them to the agency that would then need to get them to the end user who would then need to get them to the folks that need the food. Two day later or even one day later that Fenway Frank is not going to be very tasty.

I do wonder how much food BPS waste daily though?

Voting closed 20

Surely not the non profits... should stores and restaurants have to carry the burden? Nope. Nor should they have to pay for transportation or insurance expenses either.

Voting closed 36

Uh, doing business requires meeting the regulations in place.

It's literally called the "cost of doing business".

Voting closed 37

Imposing additional salary, benefits, insurance etc expenses for institutions (eg restaurants) who are still recovering from COVID or imposing extra hours upon their staff members with already crappy work life balance, childcare expenses, etc should not be considered "the cost of doing business."

Voting closed 8

Tell me you didn't read the ordinance without telling me you didn't read the ordinance...

1) "still recovering from COVID" - The ordinance wouldn't take effect on businesses until 2025 or 2026 depending on the size of the business.

2) "imposing extra hours, etc." - The ordinance has annual renewable economic hardship waivers.

It would be easier, cheaper, less stressful for these restaurants to not card patrons...to not clean dishes...to not maintain fire doors...to not do a lot of things that I'm sure you consider the "cost of doing business". The only difference is that this is a new additional thing that would also be the cost of doing business.

And there's a simple solution for this for any business: waste less food. This is only going to be about food that is still good but they're not going to serve/sell. If they get better at their own inventory/management, then their compliance will become very natural.

Furthermore, there's nothing in the ordinance about how the businesses are supposed to get the food to the food redistribution NGOs. There's likely to be an entirely new service/company opportunity for someone to enter into contracts to receive and transport these foods to the NGOs on behalf of those businesses. That could very well mean very little extra work for the restaurant except for a small fee to the service company, and more jobs for the city.

Voting closed 7

I'm not 100% sure about this but I think Stop and Shop works with different groups to donate food.

Voting closed 8

Many grocery stores donate bread, produce, and canned or box foods that are nearing used by dates to local pantry and food bank programs.
Prepared foods ( that is to say, leftovers ) are a little trickier. A place has to have an arrangement with some place that is going to have that food out on a serving line same day or next morning.
I have dealt with it with the leftovers after the past at family funerals. It is hard to plan on exact numbers of people who will be coming to eat, so you end up with too little or too much. In those cases, local charities connected us with shelters or "soup kitchens".

Voting closed 9