WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - For several years Tiki's Grill & Bar has donated the eatery's extra food to Aloha Harvest, a nonprofit that distributes surplus food to the hungry through food pantries.
"You might have a large banquet and not everyone shows up for the banquet so you have extra food," Tiki's operations director Michael Miller said. "That's the phenomenal part of it, Aloha Harvest, you just pick up the phone and they'll come pick it up."
City Council member Ann Kobayashi said Tiki's is one of a small number of restaurants in Honolulu that donate surplus food on a regular basis.
"We found out that there are only about 40 restaurants that actually give their excess food every day to a group that can then make use of it," she said.
But Kobayashi wants to change that.
In January, she introduced Bill 9, a measure that originally "mandated" but was then changed to "encourages" food establishments to donate surplus and leftover food for redistribution. She said the measure serves a dual purpose by increasing food to feed the hungry and helping those who are on the verge of becoming homeless.
"If we could put a dent in it at the front end by by helping people pay rent rather than buy food, I think that's a good thing," she said.
Miller agrees with Kobayashi that more restaurants should be involved in donating excess food, but he doesn't think the answer is creating another law.
He said getting restaurants to cooperate may be easier if they were educated on the benefits of donating food.
"If there was an incentive for restaurants and businesses to donate to the Food Bank or donate to Aloha Harvest, that would be a great way to approach it versus a legislative or regulatory approach to it," he said.
In written testimony, the Hawaii Food Industry Association supported the bill's intent but warned it could burden establishments if they were also asked to separate and store food that's served but left uneaten.
Bill 9 has been deferred twice by the Council's Public Works committee. Members want more information before taking a vote.
As for Kobayashi, she says she's not giving up on the measure.