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National Restaurant Association - Hunger-relief group celebrates milestone 20th anniversary

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Hunger-relief group celebrates milestone 20th anniversary

Food Donation Connection, an organization that oversees the donation and distribution of surplus food from restaurants and other foodservice concerns to local social service agencies, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in business.

The Knoxville, Tenn.-based FDC is the brainchild of Bill Reighard, a former restaurant company executive, who founded the organization in 1992 in order to provide an alternative to discarding already prepared surplus food. Beginning in 2009, the group partnered with the National Restaurant Association to raise awareness among restaurateurs about donating that surplus food and helping to relieve hunger in the United States, rather than discarding it into landfills.

Dawn Sweeney, the NRA's president and CEO, congratulated Reighard on the organization's anniversary, saying the industry is happy to support important programs like his that benefit the needs of local communities and the environment at the same time.

"Your efforts are making the world a better place for millions of Americans who lack access to nutritious food on a regular basis," Sweeney said. "The restaurant industry is strongly supportive of programs like yours that serve local communities, end food waste and allow restaurateurs to be the natural philanthropists they are. To have ensured that hundreds of millions of pounds of food have not gone to waste over the years is a remarkable achievement. Your brilliance at linking together foodservices and those in need is something to celebrate."

According to Jim Larson, FDC's program development director, the group currently works with approximately 14,000 foodservice locations to provide food for donation. Since its inception 20 years ago, some 240 million pounds of food has been collected to feed the hungry. He added that in 2011 alone, FDC coordinated the donation of some 35 million pounds of surplus food to approximately 8,000 hunger-relief agencies. Key donor partners participating in the program include Yum! Brands, Darden Restaurants, Starbucks, Cheesecake Factory, HMSHost, Aramark, Bob Evans, Mimi's Café, Papa John's and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Larson further noted that the organization also operates in the United Kingdom and plans to create a presence in France as well.

The NRA is committed to helping the restaurant industry decrease the amount of food waste sent to landfills. As part of its Conserve Sustainability Education ProgramSM, the association is working with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute on how to reduce food waste and divert it to food banks and hunger-relief organizations.

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