Program distributes leftover restaurant food to the hungry

Kemberly Richardson Image
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Program distributes leftover restaurant food to the hungry
Kemberly Richardson has the story

NEW YORK (WABC) -- If you've ever worked in a restaurant or seen them cleaning up, you know that a lot of food gets thrown away. But one man who wants to stop to the trend is putting some of that unused food to good use.

He's Robert Lee, from the Long Island Bagel Cafe, and he's determined to feed the hungry without spending a penny.

His non-profit, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, is connected with more than 100 food partners who donate whatever they have left at the end of the day.

"I thought the program was wonderful," local business owner Randy Narod said. "I'm throwing this stuff out. I'd love to donate it to people."

Lee and an army or volunteers take it from there, and all of the food must meet strict standards.

"We bring the food to banks, food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters," Lee said. "So we see a whole range of people we are reaching."

For the 25 year old, who left a high-paying job on Wall Street to start his organization, it is a deeply personal journey. The child of immigrants, he admits his parents struggled to provide food for his family.

"I remember a time when we didn't know where our next meal was coming from," he said.

It's something that is also on the minds of many at the New York City Rescue Mission, which feeds more than 500 people each day.

To date, Lee has donated about $300,000 worth of food to that site alone.

"It means we have to purchase less," said Craig Maye, who works at the mission. "So we can use the money we raised and put it in other places in our program."

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is now in place in 12 cities but, but in New York, Lee says he desperately needs more volunteers.

Right now, they have a list of people ready to donate food, but no one to pick it up and deliver it.

"Not only is it the feeding people that makes me tremendously happy," he said. "But it's also the food waste that's not going to landfills."

He's proud to be making an impact on so many people's lives and the planet.

Anyone interested in volunteering or assisting in other ways can find more information by visiting