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Legislation could help restaurants feed hungry

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A new law could help fight hunger in Oklahoma.

State Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-OK) has proposed a  bill that will allow restaurants to donate left over food.

Rep. Morrissette said dumping tons of leftovers is a reality for many local restaurants  because owners fear if they donate, they could be held liable if someone gets a food-borne illness.

"It's our product so we'd be legally responsible if somebody got sick," Brown's Bakery Owner Michael Brown said.

He donates his leftover bread and donuts but only to organizations and charities that he has worked with in the past. 

Right now, The Good Samaritan Act, protects restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries wishing to donate but that is at the federal level.

At the state level, Rep. Morrissette said policies at the Department of Health and Human Services conflict with that law, dissuading venues from donating. 

Under House Bill 1418, the Health Department would list guidelines companies use to donate perishable food safely, like using refrigerated trucks to transport the food.

If companies follow those rules, Rep. Morrissette said owners wouldn't be held liable if
something goes wrong.

"There was a need to change the statue in order to permit the health department to do this correctly," Rep. Morrissette said.

Rep. Morrissette said his bill would also allow senior nutrition centers to let patrons take food away form the site as extra portions.

Right now, those centers have to throw away unused food.

Meanwhile, restaurant owners are eager to get their leftovers to the hungry.

"Glad it's not in the trash," Brown said.

If passed, HB 1418 will go into law as early as July 2013.

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