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Many go hungry in land of plenty

“We, the people, do have the power to stop (the) tragic waste of resources if we regard it as socially unacceptable to waste food.” Tristram Stuart (1977- ), English author and 2011 winner of international environmental Sophie award for campaign to solve global food waste.

One of the things that Las Vegas is noted for is its cornucopia of lavish buffets. Ever wonder what happens to all the uneaten food?

With recent cutbacks in food stamps, more families are having difficulty eating three meals a day. Reportedly there are 340,000, or 16 percent of the population, that are in this group and many are children. These are not the disabled or the chronically unemployed but folks who were working until the recent financial crisis.

For many it is the first time they have had to apply for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or food stamps. To make matters worse, the benefits were decreased Nov. 1.

Friends who are volunteers at our own Emergency Aid of Boulder City report the number of visitors has increased markedly. They depend on our donations of both food and money.

Local supermarkets such as Albertsons and Vons contribute products that have an approaching expiration date but even more could be done.

Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell), Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Long Horn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52), Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle Mexican Grill, CraftWorks Restaurants (Old Chicago Pizza &Taproom, Rock Bottom Restaurant &Brewery, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant) and perhaps other national chains have joined a group known as Food Donation Connection to donate their surplus food to volunteer groups that feed the needy. However, not all of these restaurants may be doing so in Nevada.

Aramark Corp., among its many services, has a food service and refreshment division. This company caters many of the banquets held in this area. The food that is not put out on the tables, i.e., kept in storage, is distributed to needy groups that Aramark has selected in advance.

MGM Resorts International gathers all its leftovers and turns it over to R.C. Farms, where it is then feed to hogs. It is better than dumping it in landfills as most of the other hotels apparently do.

I contacted a few of the major hotel public relations departments by email asking about their policy regarding leftovers and received no reply. I visited some of the buffets and spoke to the executive chefs. They uniformly told me that some were given to the employee dining/break rooms but the majority was dumped. The reason given was the fear of liability.

They were unaware of the Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that was signed on Oct. 1, 1996, by President Bill Clinton as protection from civil and criminal liability to encourage donation of food and grocery products to nonprofit organizations for distribution to those in need.

In addition, a Nevada law in effect since July 1, 2009, also protects donors of perishable food from civil liability. And yet this fear of liability persists.

What more can be done? My suggestion is for the county commissioners to form a task force consisting of legal counsel, representatives from some of the major hotels, a health department representative and any others that the commissioners may feel can contribute to solving this problem.

The result should be a county law that provides even more legal protection for donors and a procedure for the safe transfer of food from the donors in special trucks designed to transport perishable goods to needy organizations.

We all know what happened to Marie Antoinette who was falsely attributed with the phrase “Let them eat cake” when told of widespread bread shortage. We have the resources to do better for those in need of extra food.

Addendum: This will be my last column because of continuing health problems, but I am going to try to contribute an occasional column. I have enjoyed the experience and hope readers were provided with some thought-provoking articles.

Glenn Nakadate is a Boulder City resident and can be reached at bcpebble@yahoo.com.

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