Man Collects Food Restaurants Would Throw Away, Gives It to the Homeless

24-year-old New Yorker Robert Lee is one of those rare souls who give up their high flying careers, and use their business acumen to make a difference in the world. Lee is the cofounder of ‘Rescuing Leftover Cuisine’ (RLC), an initiative that makes an effort to end urban hunger by collecting wasted food from large establishments and giving it away to the poor.

Lee said that his interest in food conservation comes from his Korean immigrant parents, who insisted on clean plates and taught him never to waste food. Subsequently, he spent his college years volunteering for New York group Two Birds, One Stone, delivering extra dining hall food to homeless shelters. It was during this time that Lee realised he could streamline the system into a scalable model.

Today, Lee and his fellow ‘rescuers’ at RLC march the streets of New York City, collecting paper bags of food from restaurants and cafés that are willing to donate what they would have otherwise thrown away. The team is able to collect anywhere between five and 120 pounds of food a day, and they promptly deliver the haul to a nearby homeless shelter.


It sounds rather simple, but there’s more the what the RLC team does. Not only do they collect and deliver food, they also record each minute detail of everything that is donated. This data helps restaurant partners understand how they can streamline the donation process. This actually makes RLC a scalable business model that can be implemented the world over.

“The mission of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is to become the world’s most widely used solution for companies and individuals to eliminate food waste in their communities, making food rescue sustainable and universal, and food hunger a thing of the past,” the RLC website states.


According to the website, RLC approaches the issue of hunger and food in three ways – “localize the issues into sets of communities that can help sustain themselves”, “leverage technology to facilitate the identification and handling of excess food”, and “tackle food waste at its root, aiming to eliminate as much food waste as possible and bringing the remaining excess food to where it is needed most.”

Using this model, they say that food providers will be able to use a smartphone app to report when they have excess food. The same app can be used by community members and volunteers to then go and pick up the food. Also, the data can be analysed to see exactly when food wastage occurs, so it can be avoided in the future.


Lee said that his journey in entrepreneurship has been “nerve wracking”, but his efforts are finally beginning to get recognized. Lee and his cofounder Louisa Chen recently got noticed by non-profit Do Something, America’s largest organisation for youth volunteering opportunities. They also won a $10,000 grant from KIND.

RLC is slowly spreading its wings across the nation – branches have come up in Los Angeles, Albany, San Francisco, and Miami. Lee and his team continue to work towards eradicating hunger and minimising the wastage of food.

Photos: Rescuing Leftover Cuisine/Facebook

Source: Rescuing Leftover Cuisine via Elite Daily

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