OK bill signed into law to reduce hunger and food waste

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DURANT, OK -- In an effort to reduce food waste and fight hunger in Oklahoma lawmakers have taken action. The act is named after Josephine Meade, a housewife and mother during the Great Depression. She collected discarded food and cooked meals for people in need.The law aims to continue her work.

Families Feeding Families in Durant feels the hunger pains from its community.

"Annually we serve about 50,000 throughout the year," Tish Burkhalter said.

Five days a week from 4:30 to 6 co-founder Tish Burkhalter says the cafeteria is filled with people in need, and the need heats up in the summer. Burkhalter says it is difficult to keep up with the demand.

"We are having a lot of trouble with the donations we used to have, but people are trying to meet those donations in other ways," Burkhalter said.

Oklahoma lawmakers are trying to help through the Josephine Meade Anti-Hunger Act. The law allows businesses, such as restaurants and grocery stores to donate unserved food.

"The law is a great idea because it will allow people, grocery store owners or restaurant owners to have an out for products that are not out of date, but maybe close dated," Randy Sullivan, owner of Green Spray in Durant, said.

The act gives donors more protection and reduces fear of liability.

"It helps protect the business owner who's concerned about maybe giving away food, that would otherwise you would think would be good, but might be of some risk," Sullivan said.

According to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, in 2010 about 133 billion pounds of food from retailers, restaurants and homes was thrown away.

Lawmakers hope the new law will encourage businesses to step up to the plate.

"Usually we're addressing it before it gets past its time. We're looking at it and marking it down, but in this event we might start donating some of that," Sullivan said.

The bill also allows food to be taken home from senior nutrition sites.
Lawmakers say a link will be provided on the Oklahoma State Department of Health's website to address liability concerns and offer guidelines on safe donation practices.

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