BOSTON (WHDH) - The city of Boston is considering a new food recovery program aimed at getting items to local nonprofits for people in need by requiring certain food providers to donate leftover food that would otherwise be thrown away.

A pair of Boston city councilors pitched the proposal, which went before the city council on Wednesday. 

During the council’s meeting, City Councilor Kendra La later said this work is “incredibly overdue,” saying she is “excited to move this work forward.

By one estimate, 20% of people in Massachusetts have trouble getting dinner on the table. Boston’s proposed food recovery program, initially presented by councilors Ricardo Arroyo and Gabriela Coletta, would aim to help address the problem. 

The ordinance would set up an office of food justice and require large scale food providers to donate leftover food to nonprofits such as food pantries. 

The states of New York, Washington and California are trying to get similar legislation on the books. In Boston, though, this would be a first in the nation effort for a city. 

“There has already been a model, but Boston could be a leader and we should be a leader in this space,” Coletta said, referencing similar programs overseas.

Boston’s food recovery program would impact a host of businesses and organizations including hotels, supermarkets, large restaurants, colleges and hospitals and food service providers. 

At the Greater Boston Food Bank, executives are studying the idea, hoping it will work. 

“It sounds like an awesome solution to a food waste problem that is definitely a huge contribution to food insecurity,” the food bank’s Catherine Lynn said. 

Some in the restaurant industry have applauded this cause. They’re also wondering, though, how Boston’s proposed program would work day in and day out. 

“The infrastructure needs to be in place to keep food safety top of mind,” Steve Clark of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association said. 

Clark said a process would need to be put in place. He continued, saying he does not think restaurants or nonprofits are currently equipped to handle such a process. 

“The infrastructure is not there yet,” he said.

Arroyo said he wants to phase this plan in slowly if it passes, with no enforcement until 2026.

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