• Talk to merchants. Point your local stores and restaurants toward the EPA's publication “Waste Not/Want Not” (epa.gov), laden with information about food recycling options. In almost every case, it's cheaper to donate leftover food than to pay someone to haul it away.

  • Buy fresh food frequently. Smaller grocery runs mean less food spoiling in your fridge. And learn to use your freezer.

  • Cook with leftovers. Plenty of recipe collections, such as The Use It Up Cookbook by Catherine Kitcho (Cumberland House, 2003), offer great ideas.

If only we all had smaller eyes — or bigger stomachs. U.S. residents throw away about 100 billion pounds of food every year (nearly 3,000 pounds per second), enough to feed 60 million people. At the same time, more than 35 million Americans are hungry or on the edge of hunger. At greatest risk are households with children, families headed by a single woman, and people with incomes below the poverty line. We've got an abundance of food; we just waste lots of it. Consider this: We recycle half of all used paper, a third of all used metal, but only 2 percent of leftover food.

Who's helping


Now in its thirtieth year, Feeding America distributes food to 25 million people via 200 food banks across the country, working with donations from individuals, farms, grocery stores, and government agencies. Take items to a food bank using the Food Bank Locator at feedingamerica.org.


San Francisco designers Josh Kamler and Axel Albin didn't invent street-level food activism, they just named it and helped spread the message. Now, leaving unwanted leftovers on top of trash cans has gotten national attention, and the trend is spreading. replate.org


Since 1990, this group has collected leftover food from concerts, sporting events, and political rallies. So far, they've worked with 150 bands in 500 cities. If you're organizing an event, contact rockandwrapitup.org.


In the spirit of encouraging food recovery rather than waste, a 1996 law protects donors from liability for tainted food. Go to usda.gov and type good samaritan food donation act into the search box.