Restaurant leftovers are not just what’s in your doggie bag. If prepared food is never served, it often goes to waste.

Robert Lee
Robert Lee

Robert Lee is changing that. He’s CEO of the non-profit “Rescuing Leftover Cuisine.” His group gives unused food from restaurants and supermarkets to those in need in New York City.

While most groups only accept large food donations, Lee takes smaller ones that would otherwise go to waste.

LEE: “Even ninety pounds of food can feed about seventy people, and that’s the size of a small homeless shelter.”

The lighter loads allow volunteers to walk or bike the food to shelters – virtually eliminating transportation costs . . . and these small donations add up.

LEE: “We’ve currently rescued about four hundred thousand pounds of food and we’re looking to hit a million pounds of food by the end of 2016.”

As the son of Korean immigrants who struggled to put food on the table, Lee understands how important rescued food is for families in need.

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LEE: “But what people don’t understand is also food waste is tied to so many different issues.”

When food is wasted, so are all of the natural resources that went into producing it. And when leftovers rot in landfills, they release methane, which makes global warming worse.

So rescuing even small amounts of food can make a big difference for people and the planet.

Reporting credit: Analeah Rosen/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Courtesy of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine.

The Series:
Pt 1: Food waste is a global problem (May 30, 2016)
Pt 2: Educating restaurants on how to reduce food waste (May 31, 2016)
Pt 3: Food wasted because it’s not perfect (June 1, 2016)
Pt 4: Rescuing leftover food (June 2, 2016)
Pt 5: What you can do to reduce wasted food (June 3, 2016)

More Resources
Rescuing Leftover Cuisine
Getting Ugly Produce Onto Tables So It Stays Out of Trash
How ‘Ugly’ Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger

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Jan O'Brien

Jan O'Brien was assistant editor and website manager at Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. She brought more than three decades of experience in environmental publishing and policy research and more...