LONG BEACH — Vincent Williams provides for the homeless.
Rather than throwing away leftover fried chicken from the two Golden Bird outlets he operates in Long Beach and Compton, Williams donates more than 100 pieces a week to a Long Beach shelter for the homeless.
"This is something that has to be done," he said. "We hate to see all that food going in the trash when people are lying down in the streets without food in their stomachs."
The food is perfectly edible. Fast-food restaurants that precook hamburgers or chicken amass tons of leftovers every year. Ritzy restaurants that prepare huge pots of soups or bowls of salads also often have leftovers at the end of the day.
Shelters Anxious to Receive
Unless it is donated, the excess food is thrown away or given to a rendering plant for use as animal feed.
Now, some restaurant owners such as Vincent are trying to make good use of the excess food by giving it away to homeless shelters and kitchens. Some shelters are anxious to take advantage of the offers to supplement their regular menus.
Besides spreading good will, restaurant owners say they can claim a tax write-off. And the poor get to feast on restaurant specialties.
"It ends up helping everyone," said City Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, who has actively supported the idea. His downtown-area district is a magnet for the homeless.
Braude began to encourage shelters to seek restaurant donations after the Legislature passed a law that exempts restaurant owners from liability when they donate food for distribution to the poor.
Government Giveaways Cut
Braude and some shelter officials said they hope that restaurant donations can help offset reductions in some food items that have been offered through government agricultural surplus programs. Cheese, nonfat dry milk and staples such as rice are no longer plentiful, said John Knapp, director of the Long Beach Food Bank.
Restaurant leftovers can provide some relief for shelters' food bills, officials said.
The Long Beach Family Shelter for the Homeless, an emergency shelter affiliated with Catholic Charities, has been receiving donations of leftover food to supplement the three meals a day served to about 65 poor people, said Diane Johnson, shelter director.
"They don't just eat soup and sandwiches," she said. "We try to address the nutritional needs of the children. Food is high cost."
Johnson said she receives donations of leftover fried chicken from Golden Bird, fancy salads from Justina's in downtown Long Beach, Domino's pizza and soup from the Twin Wheels Steak House in west Long Beach.
Lisa Lucas, manager of the Twin Wheels, said the restaurant donates whats left of its daily pot of soup to the shelter.
The fast-growing Christian Outreach Appeal kitchen hopes to find restaurants willing to donate leftovers to supplement the food it receives from supermarkets, food banks and other sources, fund-raiser Denise Clayton said.
"Our programs have expanded real quick," she said. "We are now feeding four times a week where we were doing it twice a week. Incredible numbers of people are coming into town and they need emergency food."
Restaurant donations have aided the Long Beach Food Bank, which serves homeless organizations from Long Beach to Whittier to Carson. The food bank, which is changing its name to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater South Bay, has received leftovers from Kentucky Fried Chicken and leftover salads from other restaurants, said Knapp, the executive director.
But the Long Beach Rescue Mission, which runs one of the largest dining halls for itinerants in the city, has not solicited restaurant leftovers, said Wayne Teuerle, executive director and founder.
"Honestly, for an operation our size, we're better off preparing meals here," said Teuerle, who said that the mission serves 250 to 400 meals a day.