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How Restaurants can Donate Excess Food

Author: Anna Chott, Sustainability Planner, East-West Gateway Council of Governments



Restaurants in St. Louis can help those in need and reduce their waste and carbon footprint by donating unsold food. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act and the 2023 FDA Food Code allows restaurants to donate properly stored and labeled food to individuals or to food pantries and charities. In 2023, restaurants participating in the Green Dining Alliance collectively diverted 6,552 tons of food waste from landfills, or the equivalent of 11,293,361.36 CO2e. Some of this food was donated to organizations that serve people in need, such as Anointed Hands Ministries, Feed My Peeps, Joseph Center, Operation Food Search, and SLU Campus Kitchen. Other restaurants interested in donating excess food should visit the Green Dining Alliance website and look under resources for food donation.


The EPA's Wasted Food Scale points out that donation of excess food should be a high priority to reduce environmental impacts. Even more important, restaurant donations are a source of temporary relief for organizations working to address food insecurity. However, the Wasted Food Scale points out that while food donation is important, the top priority should be to prevent wasted food by only producing, buying, and serving what is needed. After all, not all leftover food is appropriate to donate to support a balanced diet, or even still edible. This is why local food donation agencies, in order to address food insecurity in a more permanent way, have turned to policy advocacy and community garden efforts.

Restaurants in the Green Dining Alliance have incorporated other food waste reduction strategies such as composting, adjusting portion sizes, and making new recipes to use all parts of a food item (for example, carrot top vinaigrette!). According to the EPA's Wasted Food Scale, after prevention and donation, the next priority is to feed food waste to animals, then compost, and only as a last resort send it to the landfill, where it will emit the potent greenhouse gas methane as it decomposes. To learn more about the Green Dining Alliance and their food waste reduction efforts, click here.