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Chef's Table - Gracious table

In 2003-2004, Atlanta's Table, a part of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, collected and distributed 371,000 pounds of prepared food to 30 relief agencies such as the Atlanta Day Shelter, Fern House, My Sister's House, the Atlanta Union Mission and the Rock. Executive Director and founder Bill Bolling created the program in 1987; it has served as a model for hundreds of other cities to develop similar initiatives to feed the hungry. In 17 years, nobody has gotten sick or filed a lawsuit - no small feat for this nonprofit.

Creative Loafing: What's the biggest misconception about Atlanta's Table?

Bolling: Many potential donors are not aware that it is legal and good business practice to donate. They think they can't donate.

But aren't there liability issues if a restaurant is donating 100 pounds of shrimp?

That's the number one concern. We take responsibility of the food. We created the Good Samaritan food bill, which released the donor of liability. You have to be really judicious in the handling of prepared food.

Who are some of your donors?

We have access to some of the best food in town. Maggiano's, Spice, Sodexho, which caters some of the city's finest corporate dining rooms, Whole Foods Market, the Renaissance Hotel, Ted's Montana Grill, Ardens Garden, Red Lobster. Atlanta's Table and the partnerships we have built really represent the values of the hospitality industry. We've created a different consciousness about food and food waste.

Is donating unused food good business?

The last thing a seller of food wants to do is throw it away. They want some way to get it eaten. Some companies will take a tax write-off. We help companies manage their inventory, see trends, and over time, cut their waste. They get good publicity and are recognized as a good citizen. And it's good for morale.

Sounds like a major logistical operation.

In any given day we don't know what is donated or what is needed. Logistically, it rivals UPS.

Beyond the statistics, what's the impact of Atlanta's Table?

Picking up food from four-star restaurants and getting food to people in need that deeply appreciate it still warms my heart after 30 years [in this line of work]. It's food that otherwise would have gone to the dump.

chefstable@creativeloafing.com





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