Every year, millions of dollars are donated to charities to help fund medical research, provide counseling, operate donation sites, and other philanthropic causes. As the owner or manager of a restaurant, you’re in the unique position to donate something other than a check—you can give back directly to your community through your very own business: food and positive life experience.

As your business grows, consider giving back to the community by donating food, supporting a charity with a cause you feel strongly about, or by lifting up the people around you.

Donate Leftover Ingredients and Food

Food waste in the United States is a growing issue. In 2016, 72 billion tons of edible food were thrown out, and that number has increased over the last few years. A restaurant POS is designed to help you avoid wasting inventory, but leftover food is still to be expected from most restaurants.

How does your restaurant manage leftover food? If it gets thrown out, consider donating food to a food bank or food rescue program, instead. Food donations are a popular method of reducing waste by redirecting food from the landfill to someone’s plate.

Non-perishables and unspoiled perishable food are accepted by several organizations, like soup kitchens and shelters. The Feeding America organization, a nationwide food rescue program, helped save 2.8 billion tons of food from getting thrown out in 2016. They, like similar programs, pick up food donations for free and go the extra step of providing food containers to make it easier for businesses.

To encourage more businesses to support food banks, the Good Samaritan law was enacted to protect companies from liability surrounding their donations.

Food Banks

Food banks are professional charities run on a community level that collect and store food in their own warehouse; they accept mostly unperishable foods. Food is then distributed to emergency food assistance agencies like shelters, pantries, senior or youth centers, and soup kitchens.

Search for nearby food banks at foodpantries.org.

Food Rescue Programs

Food rescue programs focus on retrieving perishable and prepared foods before they are thrown out. Their work includes collecting, packaging, and distributing food to agencies and charities that help hungry people. Most food rescue programs work with food trucks to collect perishable foods, as well as accept direct donations from food trucks, restaurants, grocery stores, cafeterias, and other places with excess food.

Find food rescue programs to donate to at rockandwrapitup.com. Additionally, your local churches and places of worship are likely involved with causes supporting the needy and are great places to reach out to with questions.

The Tax Benefits of Donating Food

Donating food also saves you some money. Food donations reduce waste disposal costs and generate significant tax benefits. To learn more, visit this page and consult a tax advisor to apply the correct deduction.

Prepare Meals for the Homeless

Instead of donating food to a charity or organization, there’s the alternative possibility of preparing food for the homeless and distributing meals to them directly. This kind of charity is unique; it’s not often that the homeless enjoy a restaurant-quality meal prepared by skilled chefs.

You might be surprised to hear that you can make a complete meal for a large group on a very low budget. With your access to wholesale food and supply grocery stores and a little ingenuity, you can create wholesome and tasty meals at a low price.

If you want to hand out meals to the homeless but are on a tight budget, set up a donation box during your work hours so customers can chip in to help your cause.

Once you find the right location to park and schedule your day of giving back, then, prepare the food and package the meals so they can be readily handed out.

Giving back by giving food to the homeless reinforces community values; a lesson that no one is impervious to.

Tip: Buy plenty of water. Having access to clean and safe water can be difficult, and you might find people that are thirstier than they are hungry.

Teach Life Skills to Highschool Students

There are other ways of giving back to the community, like empowering the youth. Young people in high school or recent high school graduates seeking guidance would benefit from an apprenticeship at your restaurant.

Miami-based food truck Vibe 305 has made empowering students and graduates its mission. Youth hires learn how to manage a business, get nutritional training, and get professional interpersonal skills that will help them get jobs in the hospitality industry.

The unique education you can give to a young person could have a huge impact on his or her future, and help someone get a meaningful job and build a fruitful career. Vibe 305 partners with local high schools and universities to find young people to train

These are just three philanthropic ways restaurants can help the community. Offering your location for a fundraising event and catering the food is another way restaurants can help out.

For more inspiration, see our favorite uplifting restaurant stories.