Illegal food sharing in Davis!

In the past few weeks we performed a food sharing experiment in our neighborhood, installing a public refrigerator in our front yard (at 812 Douglass Avenue in Davis-CA). Over 29 days of operation, 122 food items were exchanged, an average of about 4 items per day! In the last days of operation we also had 3 books being shared, which led us to the creation of a space dedicated to book-exchange. See our inventory here:

The name of this project is free.go. Our goal is to reduce food waste and build a stronger community through food sharing; we receive no profits, or personal benefits (except for some tasty items that show up in the fridge and need to be consumed fast…). This is an idea starting in Davis, but we recently heard that similar projects are happening in other countries… you might say: convergent evolution!

We would like to see this project become big, with the installation of fridge sharing mechanisms in other areas of Davis, the country, and the world. But right now we have a big obstacle to overcome, and that is why we need your help.

Welcome to the world of illegal food sharing…

free.go has been described as “Illegal food distribution” by the Yolo County Environmental Health inspectors who have condemned our fridge because “it lacks supervision and creates an opportunity of food contamination”. Inspectors state that free.go has no “permit to operate” and that “no permit can be issued”. They said we were violating the article 114381 of the “California Food Retail Code” (even if we don’t sell any food) and the fridge had to be removed.

The article 114381 of the “California Food Retail Code” states that “A food facility shall not be open for business without a valid permit”. However the same Food Retail Code describes a food facility as being “an operation…that sells food for human consumption to the general public.” We conclude that it’s quite hard to violate any article of the “California Food Retail Code” if you don’t sell any food. In our understanding free.go is not selling, distributing or giving away any food, it is just providing a place where food sharing can occur and therefore should not fall under the category of a food distribution facility.

After our refusal to comply we were notified by our property manager that “failing to remove the fridge and its enclosure” would result in “eviction” from the house. We were informed that “the health department would be contacting the District Attorney about this and pursue us in court if need be”. free.go was only 2 months old and already a tremendous law-breaker.

This situation made us ask ourselves many questions:

· If we invite friends for dinner and they take some leftovers home, is this illegal food distribution?

· If we have a fruit tree in our front yard and want to put a sign saying “help yourselves”, do we need a permit for that?

· Wild turkeys can be found in riparian and uncultivated areas of the City of Davis. Should this be considered illegal food distribution?

· On social networks (e.g. Facebook) there are many groups dedicated to food trading and food-exchange. Is this illegal food distribution?

Even if we were actually violating anything, we still could ask:

· What is the role of the law: Improving citizens’ lives or maintaining the status quo?

· What happens when the law cannot evolve as fast as society does?

How safe is the food inside free.go?

Most of the food shared in the fridge is non-perishable, like canned vegetables, canned juice, candies, packed cereals, uncooked pasta, tea bags, coffee, etc. Perishable items are also shared, but they normally don’t stay long. Products with higher contamination risks such as fresh meat are rare, and when they appear we only leave them there for a couple of days, or until their posted expiration date. We perform regular safety checks on the fridge, at least twice a day. We look for expired items and items that look “suspicious”. The fridge is cleaned at least once a week. The risk of food contamination is therefore very low, but of course not zero.

Unfortunately there is no way to make sure that this food is 100% safe, like there is no way to make sure that crossing a street is 100% safe.

Why fight against food waste?

The FAO says that in industrialized countries, about one third of food production is wasted. More than 40% of this waste occurs at the retail or the consumer level and very often the discarded products are still packaged…

Meanwhile, roughly 870 Million people in the world (about 1 in 8) suffer from chronic undernourishment. Even in the United States, where we produce over 10,000 calories per person per day, 17.6 million (14.5%) households were food insecure in 2013.

These losses at the consumer level cause unnecessary overproduction and demand more natural resources than we really need. Entire regions rich in biodiversity are destroyed to produce more food and about 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and deforestation.

We need your help!

We want free.go to be legal and we are going to ask for the intervention of the City Council of Davis on this matter.

Please tell us what you think about this project and sign our petition if you want to bring free.go back:

Thanks so much for your help…

The free.go team

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world – Anne Frank

More information about free.go:

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      1. Barack Palin

        Yes, aesthetics is a large part of the problem.  I wouldn’t want my neighborhood to have refrigerators sitting out front on my neighbor’s yard.  I can’t imagine driving around town and seeing refrigerators everywhere, how ugly.  Besides that, there has to be a huge liability risk of giving out food that one doesn’t know where it came from.  If the city ever okayed something like this would they also be liable?  When I go to a grocery store, a restaurant or my friend’s house for dinner I have a reasonable assumption of the food being safe, but a set up like this where anyone can put food in a fridge sitting out on the curb is a whole different animal.

        1. Sam

          Why would the City be liable if you get sick taking food out of your neighbors refrigerator? Because they allowed you to do something you somehow get to shed all personal responsibility for your actions? Are you unable to determine on your own the probability of the food that you freely chose to take will make you sick?

        2. South of Davis

          Sam wrote:

          > Why would the City be liable if you get sick taking

          > food out of your neighbors refrigerator?

          I hope there are not any nuts in the fridge…

          The parents of a 13-year-old girl with a peanut allergy who went into anaphylactic shock and died after eating a nighttime snack at Camp Sacramento have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.
          Read more here:

        3. ernstbo

          Aesthetics point taken!

          Lately we painted the wooden box that protect the fridge in green, so it became much less visible. We were also planning in let artists expose their work on the box, so it would become an evolving art work. (and therefore less “ugly” I believe).

          About the liability, I heard this point many times already, and I think it’s something we need to work on.

          But my personal point of view is very close to Sam’s: why should the city be liable for a decision that I take? why do I need to always find someone responsible for my actions that is not myself? If I eat olives from olive trees on Russel boulevard and fall sick, should I fill a lawsuit against the Yolo county because they planted the trees in there?

          Thanks “south davis” for your link on what happened in Camp Sacramento. It’s something we need to work on.

          Any ideas that could help us solving the aesthetics or the liability problem will be taken.

  1. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > Do you view this as an aesthetics issue?

    I view it as more of a zoning issue.  I am a big supporter of of people being able to feed the poor and also earn a living (the book on the link below is a great one), but I don’t think that we should ignore current zoning laws that prohibit a guy in Wildhorse from converting his garage in to a 24/7 dining hall for the homeless or a business where he beats raw steel in to custom Harley fenders by hand.

    1. ernstbo

      We were thinking about making the fridge mobile, with wheels. It would still be standing in the front yard, but easily removable. In this way would it still be a zoning issue?

  2. Barack Palin

    Another possible problem is a child closing themselves inside the fridge which is very accessible in one’s front yard.  I know it’s the law in many jurisdictions where the door has to be taken off of refrigerators that are sitting outside or on a curb waiting for pick up.

    1. ernstbo

      To get inside the fridge the child would need to remove all the shelves and the food inside.

      Also the fridge has glass doors. If there was a child inside, someone passing by could easily see it. But yes safety is also an issue we should consider, thanks for your point.

      1. Barack Palin

        ernstbo, your fridge is just one of many different styles, others that don’t have glass and are large enough for a child to get inside would be a huge problem to put out front in my view.  If the city were ever foolish enough to pass such an ordinance that lets people put a refrigerator on their front lawn then I feel they are opening themselves up to all kinds of legal ramifications.

    2. Sam

      Ms. Palin-I think that again you are trying to lay off personal liability to someone else. In order for a child to be in danger they must be under the age of 2 (a larger child would not fit in a fridge that size), strong enough to pull the door open, strong enough to pull everything out, smart enough to close it from the inside (very hard with a flat glass door), too weak to slightly lean on it once inside to get back out AND have parents that will leave you alone, outside for the large amount of time it would take to complete the task. I think that particular child will have multiple other problems in life aside from the threat of small outdoor refrigerators. I have had one in my backyard and have never opened it to find a child in it. I think if you limit the size to what was pictured nobody will be in danger.

        1. Sam

          Never found a baby in my freezer, washer, dryer, hot tub, drinking grill cleaner, up on the roof….. I think a big reason is that I keep an eye on them and I don’t rely on, nor do I want laws to “protect” me and skirt that responsibility.

          If a group of adults wants to share food with each other and take the higher risk of getting sick then go for it.

          If you don’t want to teach your kids not to eat anything they find outside, especially if they have a peanut allergy, all the laws in the world are not going to fully protect that child.

  3. Tia Will


    I take your safety concerns very seriously. I see this as an idea that could be developed into something very positive from its current very early stage of development.

    What I can envision would be individualization of this concept by neighborhood with both safety and aesthetics being taken into account. We certainly have precedent and a long tradition of group food sharing in this country. Church and social group luncheons, picnics, dinners, crab feeds, Vanguard events with food provided and the like occur on a regular basis for groups both large and small without anyone becoming overly concerned about the dangers of “food sharing”.

    It seems to me that it is not the idea, but rather the execution that is a problem here. I applaud the initiative being shown by this group and agree with David that more thought needs to go in to designing a safe and neighborhood appropriate solution. This is  not a call to maintain the status quo, but rather to find a solution that will allow innovation in a way that does not threaten eviction or other legal recourse.

  4. Tia Will

    free.go team

    First , I applaud your initiative and I am in complete agreement with your goals as I see them if I am understanding correctly :

    1. Reduce food wastage

    2. Feed those who would benefit from the possession and or overproduction of food that cannot be consumed by those who have purchased or prepared it.

    3. Build community through sharing

    I would very much like to help with these goals. I also feel that you are likely to be more successful with a collaborative approach rather than a rigid insistence on your particular solution as the only way to move forward. While working towards an innovative solution that will not get you into legal difficulties,  I would make some very simple suggestions.

    1. Consider working with your landlord on a compromise solution of an open cupboard for only non perishables  to gage need and involvement in your neighborhood. This could be accomplished in much the same way as the “free library” without the health and aesthetic issues. Include a suggestion box so that users could identify their needs and offer improvements. Acknowledge the notes as they come in to build community.

    2. Consider a more limited prepared or perishable exchange in your neighborhood with a social site or other electronic means of communicating when extras are available. We have a real time arrangement with our next door neighbors where we often take portions to each others houses when we have prepared too much. I would love to see this as a neighborhood custom not just limited to two families. Clearly you are electronically connected, so perhaps there is more that you could do in this area.

    3. The best way of course to prevent extra is to purchase and prepare less. This seems obvious, but for those of us who are used to cooking for children, or have come from large families, it may not seem obvious to do the “sharing” not after the purchase or preparation of food, but rather in the store itself by not making the excessive purchases in the first place. Are you always communicating with housemates or other family members on whether or not they will be present for any given meal and preparing weekly menus in accordance with who will actually be consuming the food ?

    4. Organizing food preparation by household would be another good means of sharing and building community which would allow for preplanning of the precise amount to prepare. A “moving feast”, pot luck,  or volunteering to do a communal meal on a specific night that could be signed up for are two options. This could be done in your neighborhood through Survey Monkey or a Facebook invitation to participate, or something as simple as knocking on doors and  talking to your neighbors directly about whether they would like to participate.

    1. ernstbo

      Yes, those are exactly our goals!

      I do think we need to adopt a collaborative approach, and this is one of the reasons why I wrote this article here. To get some debate about the issue and also ideas. Thanks a lot for your insights!

      About your suggestions:

      1: yes we could move on sharing non-perishable items much faster than on the perishable food side…

      2: there is a facebook group called Davis food trading or something like that, it works pretty well. The fridge was just a place where these exchanges could happen in a very easy way, and it indeed worked well during one month. We are thinking about adding a lock to it and only members with the code can access it. That would maybe be against our principles of public food sharing, but it’s already better than nothing.

      3: you are right, if the shopping side was more efficient, we would need to deal with excess of food. This would be the ideal world. We have another project in this side: a smartphone app that tells you when your food will expire and gives recipe tips, with no need to input dates by yourself (based on information sent from retailers).

      4: great idea, actually the fridge helped us meet many of our neighbors and I will discuss this with them.

      1. Tia Will

        I love your goals and the efforts that you have already put in to place.  I also truly appreciate that you perceived the Vanguard as a useful place to have this kind of conversation.

        I am wondering if you have already checked with the charities and churches that do provide prepared meals to their beneficiaries on what specific kinds of permits and or regulatory loop holes they had to go through in order to provide  prepared meals to all comers ?

        When my daughter was attending St. Francis High in Sacramento, we prepared and served many meals for the women sheltering at Sister Nora’s. No one ever asked us about the sanitation in our preparation area, usually my or another volunteer’s kitchen. We always left the left overs behind to be placed into their communal kitchen. There must be some regulatory opening that allows this to happen. 

        1. ernstbo

          I think that the permit for charities is easier to get, and the permit fee is free for non-profits. (

          but free.go doesn’t match with any kind of charity described in the code, because it doesn’t sell any food. According to the California Retail Code, a food facility needs to sell food (

          If you read the code you will see that the type of event you described normally doesn’t need a permit because is considered private or because the events happen rarely. (or maybe you were breaking the law you too 😉

  5. ryankelly

    I seriously doubt that the City Council will override the Health Department and allow a refrigerator to be placed in the front yard in a residential area for the unsupervised distribution and collection of food.  This is just a stupid idea.  Take the refrigerator inside.  It is dangerous.   You’ll get no – zero – support from me.  In fact, if it does go to the City Council, I will come and speak against it.

    From what I understand, this guy has been told numerous times to remove it and he refuses.

    If they want to give away food, have people knock on the front door and make the exchange.  You know, knocking on the door and asking to borrow a cup of sugar, for example.  This is how it was done in the past.  But that would require face to face meeting with your neighbors and not the anonymous system you are trying to set up.

    Or you could meet your neighbors and identify those who may be in need and invite them over for dinner or bring some food to them. But again that would require human to human interaction.

    1. Davis Progressive

      the real question for me is is there a model that would allow something like this to work, because that might actually be a good thing.  i don’t want a bunch of people knocking at my door the few times when i am at home, but i might set food out for less fortunate people to take at their discretion if we had a system to make it work.

      1. ryankelly

        Yes, it is called the Food Bank.  There is one in Davis sponsored by STEAC, one run by the County, several churches provide free food, and even UCD has a food closet available for students.


    2. ernstbo

      I also don’t believe that City Council will override the Health Department, we just want our case to be heard since we think the retail food code doesn’t apply to our case (no food is being sold). We also did this petition to spread the world, foment debate about this question and get comments about our project, positive or negative.

      “” From what I understand, this guy has been told numerous times to remove it and he refuses.””

      The fridge was already removed from our front yard on December 11 2014.

      You are right, knocking on the door and asking to borrow a cup of sugar, and other kinds of neighbor-to-neighbor exchange are great, and we also want to encourage that. In no way we want to replace human-to-human interactions. We don’t see the fridge as an anonymous set-up, we actually met many of our neighbors through it.

      The fridge is just another way of sharing food in specific occasions. Like sometimes you knock your neighbor’s door and she/he is not there, or it’s already late in the night, or you are shy, or your neighbor doesn’t want or doesn’t need the food you want to give…

      About the Food Bank: yes it’s a great idea and it works pretty well. But food banks are not open 24/7 and don’t accept opened items, even if non-perishable. And many people don’t know where the food banks are or don’t want to drive there. We are not trying to compete or replace the food bank. I would say we have different goals for different needs and a different usage.

      During the time we had the fridge out there it worked pretty well and we had a lot of food exchange, and that’s why we are fighting for it. If nobody had used it and if we didn’t have so many positive comments from our neighbors we wouldn’t be loosing our time to fight for it.

      Thanks for your input. It’s this kind of exchange we were looking for.

        1. Davis Progressive

          there are lots of reasonable concerns – a lot of great things have reasonable concerns.  the question is whether we can get past them and whether we should spent our time knocking down in an interesting idea or trying to improve it.  this site is great at knocking things down – but this community has the capacity to move past that.

        2. Barack Palin

          Even if you eliminate perishable items what’s to stop a kid with nut allergies from reaching into a cabinet and grabbing something that might kill them?  What’s stopping rodents from getting into the food if it ends up being stored in cabinets?  This would need 24/7 supervision, that’s not going to happen.

        3. ernstbo

          We do think it would be easier to do it if we allowed only non-perishable items. This could be a temporary solution and indeed about 80% of the items shared in the fridge during our test phase were non-perishable.

          But we also want to figure out a way to share perishable food, which in my opinion is wasted more easily and it’s were the fridge could have a bigger positive impact.

          @Barack Palin:

          Yes if we store non-perishable items in a cabinet rodents could get in there, but I think this is not different from any other cabinet in any other place.

          Kids could indeed eat something that is bad for them, in the same way they could climb a tree and fall and get hurt, or eat dog poop and fall sick, or any other bad things that could happen. Unfortunately we can’t make sure that the fridge is 100% safe, but we can try to have the safest food exchange possible.

          Having supervision 24/7 is indeed hard to do. We were thinking about installing a camera in the fridge. Do you think that would respond a little bit to your safety concerns?

  6. Frankly

    This is a crack up and a clear sign of rampant cognitive dissonance in our left-leaning community.

    In a left-leaning community there is greater demand and support for rules to live by so that nobody gets hurt or suffers.

    So rules we get… hundreds of thousands of pages of them.

    And government bureaucrats partner with lawyers to satiate their need for power and wealth by exploiting all the rules.

    But invariably this erodes freedom for private solutions to problems and then it is noted that people are hurting and suffering.

    And so the left-leaning community begins to resist authority in a frenzy of righteous indignation.

    But the left-leaning community cannot agree that the root of the problem is all the rules, all the government bureaucrats and all the lawyers, because that is the core of their belief system… and besides, someone might get hurt or suffer.

    I love that line by Meryl Streep in The Giver responding to a challenge of her utopian dream “when you give people the freedom to choose they choose wrong every time.”

    There is a story in the news today about some Child Protective Services agency taking away two children from their foster parents because they were found playing alone at a park close by where they live.   When I was the age of those kids, on the weekend I would leave the house after breakfast and be back by dinner.  My parents often did not know where I was.  I was playing with the other kids in the neighborhood… playing games, going to parks…  all withing a radius of several blocks if not a mile.

    What has changed?

    We have many more pages of rules-to-live-by, and a much larger government full of bureaucrats and surrounded by more lawyers looking to score a win for anybody failing to understand and follow the rules.   Government operates within the epitome of risk-aversion.   They become incapable of common sense, because of the risk of repercussions from making a mistake.

    I am not in favor of outside refrigerators for a number of reasons, but I don’t have any problem with residents providing food to other residents.   However, if you provide food to residents and someone is hurt or suffers as a result… or even just claims to be hurt or suffering from your generosity… just be sure to understand that you will be held accountable by government bureaucrats and lawyers.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “This is a crack up and a clear sign of rampant cognitive dissonance in our left-leaning community.”

      there you go again.  to take your comment from the other article – you’re all for innovative things but are the first to spit on new ideas rather than trying to improve them.  it’s amazing you’ve become a successful businessman with that approach.

      1. Frankly

        Oh but I do great work to help address this very problem… I work to grow small business and create jobs in the state so people can afford to buy their own food and their own refrigerator.  There isn’t much mystery to why I have become a successful businessman… it comes down to effective root cause analysis and then working hard to solve problems in a real and sustainable way.

    2. Davis Progressive

      “Government operates within the epitome of risk-aversion.   They become incapable of common sense, because of the risk of repercussions from making a mistake.”

      and yet, you do the same.

      1. Frankly

        I am not risk-averse at all.   I don’t support putting refrigerators around town because I think they are unsightly.  And it is not a solution to the root problem, it is a patch to a symptom of the root problem.

        Lastly, it comes with a number of consequences that need to be considered.

        My organization has donated over $4.5 million to charities over the last 15 years.  And we tend to focus on community and economic development but this gets down to a basis of improving the human condition.  And for this we tend to believe that developing self-sufficiency is the way to do.

        Does placing refrigerated food all around the city help develop human self-sufficiency?  I think not.

        1. Tia Will


          “Does placing refrigerated food all around the city help develop human self-sufficiency?  I think not.”

          Do you believe that throwing the uneaten food away helps develop human self-sufficiency ?

    3. ernstbo

      Dear frankly,

      I understand your concern about bureaucracy and government over-reach (specially now that I am directly concerned with it), and I think we should find the right equilibrium in which the government and the law don’t cause more harm than good. And this is exactly what you are doing here, debating this exact point, so this is great!

      But I would love if this debate stays away from the left-right thing, because I think this division is counterproductive.
      I hope you are being successful in growing small business and creating jobs, so that “people can afford to buy their own food and their own refrigerator”. But I don’t think that the refrigerator we installed is a replacement to the refrigerator we have at home. It’s different and serves a different purpose. For example you are leaving for the weekend with a full fridge and have some food that needs to be eaten fresh… or you just had a dinner party at home and have too many leftovers…
      I agree with you when you say that the fridge ” is not a solution to the root problem, it is a patch to a symptom of the root problem”. I would love if food waste didn’t exist, but it does. People should shop more wisely and check expire dates, but what if they don’t?

      What we want above all economic efficiency, where marginal costs are equal marginal benefits and supply meets demand. Because food is so cheap people don’t want to loose time to driving to a food bank or going around the neighborhood offering it to someone (that would be time-costly and then not efficient). But if there is a place where food exchange can happen in a easier way, the transaction costs are lower and more exchanges happen.

      During the time we had the fridge out there it worked pretty well and we had a lot of food exchange, and that’s why we are fighting for it. If nobody had used it and if we didn’t have so many positive comments from our neighbors we wouldn’t be loosing our time to fight for it.

      All the aesthetic, liability and safety concerns are valid, and we will try to work on that!

      1. Miwok

        The fact is you are trying to start a business in a residential place. Like drug dealers who generate all kinds of unwanted traffic, you are attracting transients and non-local traffic. I would be against that just to not hear all the people walking around my house down the street.

        1. ernstbo

          Giving drug dealers as an example is a little bit misplaced but I understand your point. One of our neighbors was also concerned with the fact many people would come to our neighborhood and that we would generate unwanted traffic. But during the test phase that didn’t happened, most people using the fridge were from the neighborhood and our street was calm as before.
          Also we are not trying to create a business, it’s a community based charity. The fridge is not big enough to generate significant traffic of people, like if there was a shop there. Even in peak days we didn’t have more than 4 or 5 exchanges.

  7. Tia Will


    Government operates within the epitome of risk-aversion.   They become incapable of common sense, because of the risk of repercussions from making a mistake.”

    And yet, I believe that you were in favor of the MRAP which was on the part of the police, the epitome of risk aversion. It seems that you have drawn a line in your mind in which the police and the military are somehow not part of this government that you deem to be so “incapable of common sense”. I am sometimes baffled by the seeming disjunction of your thought process in this area.

    1. Frankly

      As a strict constructionist, I see the primary function of government to keep the peace and provide safety.  So risks to public safety are not equal to the nanny-state risks you might hold dear.

      And then there is the cost-benefit determination.  We had the MRAP, and the cost would be less than the alternative.  We let it go ONLY because of symbolism (e.g., hurt feelings and irrational anxiety).  I have life insurance and I don’t plan to use it.  But I still have it.  The reason is not risk aversion, the reason is cost-benefit determination.

      1. Tia Will

        I see the primary function of government to keep the peace and provide safety.  So risks to public safety are not equal to the nanny-state risks you might hold dear.”

        I agree with your first sentence. And I believe that peace and safety are best ensured when all have enough. I believe in safety as including public health and wellness not only as against direct physical attack. You choose to define peace and safety much more narrowly than I do. And are much more prone to use needlessly derogatory terms, such as “nanny-state” than I am.

        And yes, I am proud, not ashamed that I hold the interests of others as well as myself dear.

  8. ryankelly

    The City Council should never approve this.  What would keep fraternities from parking refrigerators full of beer and snacks on their front lawns?  This is no where near a “good idea.”

    If they want to put a box of canned goods with a free sign on it at the end of their driveway, that would be one thing…but a refrigerator parked on the front lawn filled with perishable food…that’s entirely another.

  9. South of Davis

    Ryan wrote:

    > What would keep fraternities from parking refrigerators

    > full of beer and snacks on their front lawns? 

    The fact that fraternity guys are usually “looking” for MORE  beer and snacks not shopping for extra refrigerators so they can put them on their lawns to get rid of the extra beer and snacks that they don’t have…

    P.S. Even is we had a super rich fraternity that ended up with cheap beer and non organic snacks they didn’t want the “alumni risk management committee” (something all fraternities have today that we didn’t have in the early 80’s) would not let them do it…

    P.P.S. It sure would make a homeless guys day if someone put some beer in the fridge in Douglas…

  10. Frankly

    How about this idea?

    Grocery stores throw away millions of dollars worth of food every year because of expiration dates.  How about a partnership with UCD to test and clear batches of expired canned and boxed food that is then used to source a cooperative food preparation operation where meals are prepared and provided to needy hungry people?   I would be happy to donate money, time and cooking skills to this operation.

    My guess is that the government would not allow it, and lawyers would circle it like vultures waiting to kill the operation and feed on its carcass.

    1. Tia Will


      I think that you are on to something. But I would suggest moving it back one step. I would suggest that grocery stores monitor when an item is getting close to its expiration date and donate it to a food band or some such distribution center prior to the expiration date. If it hasn’t sold within x amount of time, they could assume that it is not going to sell within x + one day, or one week, or whatever would be appropriate for the item and with the only alternative being throwing it away, why not donate it. The loss to them would be no different and the positive impact on those in need could be immense.

      1. Frankly

        I don’t think that would work very well for bookkeeping and tax reasons.  Expired products would be in a different category than would nearly expired products.  Again, those pesky rules.   It is known that most packaged food is fine beyond its expiration date.  I think as long as it is tested it can be cleared to use.

        1. Barack Palin

          A lot of food has a sell by date but it’s still good for a while after that.  For instance eggs will still be good for a long time after the sell by date.

    2. South of Davis

      Frankly wrote:

      > My guess is that the government would not allow it, and lawyers

      > would circle it like vultures waiting to kill the operation

      In the late 70’s when my fraternity brother was a High School Senior he was the night manager at his Dad’s McDonalds and almost every night they would give leftover food to the homeless who knocked at the back door.  In the early 80’s a McDonalds owner got hit with a big lawsuit after someone got sick eating a Big Mac that had been sitting around for a couple hours and the McDonalds legal team sent a memo telling everyone that they were risking lawsuits if they gave away food but were safe if the food was put in the dumpster.  My friend’s family would set the leftover food in a box at the top of the dumpster and most nights someone took it.  In the mid 80’s someone got sick and died after eating food out of a McDonalds dumpster and the family won a HUGE lawsuit so the McDonalds legal team sent out a memo that all dumpsters had to be locked or bleach had to be poured over the food before it was put in an open dumpster…

    3. tj

      Non profits can write to the Nugget and request expired and almost expired food so it doesn’t go to waste.

      Much better idea than getting food poisoning from the neighbor’s fridge.  What a crazy idea!

    4. ernstbo

      Food waste happens in many levels: in the farm, in the transportation from farms to markets, at markets and at households.

      Fighting food waste that happens at the grocery is important. Many apps already exist that links supermarkets and charities or consumers: If an item is close to expiration supermarkets can inform consumers nearby. If items are expired, supermarkets can donate them directly to charities (because as Barack Palin said: lot of food has a sell by date but it’s still good for a while after that). All this with a simple click. This apps already exist in many countries and work great.

      free.go wants to tackle a different problem: food waste at consumer level.

  11. Topcat

    Have any of you heard of the “” website?  People who have unwanted items they want to give away can post them and people who want something can post them online. This helps both parties and reduces waste.

    I have used Freecycle and had good results.  I have the satisfaction of knowing that my surplus items have gone to someone who can potentially use them.

    Perhaps Freecycle is a better solution than putting a refrigerator in the front yard?

    1. South of Davis

      Topcat wrote:

      > I have used Freecycle and had good results.

      I have not had great results with Freecycle or Craig’s List Free (with lots of weirdos an no shows).

      Now when I want to give something away I put it on Craig’s List for super cheap (like $1 for a desk chair) then I just give it to the person for free.

    2. ernstbo

      There is also a facebook group called Davis food trading or something like that, it works pretty well. The fridge was just a place where these exchanges could happen in a very easy way (it’s open 24/7) and also available to people who are not super “connected”.

  12. Tia Will


    This is the kind of electronic exchange medium that I had in mind with my post about the creative use of social media as an alternative. It would of course have to be modified in some way to account for the rapid turnover of announcements due to the perishability of the items, but I think you are on a good track with this suggestion.

  13. ryankelly

    I get the point of an effort to reduce the amount of wasted food.  I myself have attempted to re-think how I purchase food. Instead of the weekly shopping trip, I have started shopping more frequently – even daily for that night’s dinner.  Then there is the planning of meals and buying only what I need to make those meals.  The Davis Food Coop is great for buying grains and rice, spices, nuts, and cereals in the bulk food area, and most grocery stores will make up smaller packages of meat and fish.  Veges are easy, except for fresh herbs.  So the little herb garden on the patio helps there.    Also, it helps to learn about food handling to keep perishable food fresh for a longer period of time or learn what can be frozen and eaten later.   I reduced my waste and spend much less on food.

    The point is that one should not be leaving for the weekend with a refrigerator full of food.  The trip should be anticipated and some planning done so that it is fairly empty.


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