I just came from a routine doctor’s appointment and I got to talking with the medical assistant, who was from India. I told her about my two trips to the country and said that I prefer the countryside over the big cities. The main reason was the extreme inequality between the rich and poor in the large, metropolitan areas. 

During my last visit in 2012, my wife and I stayed in multiple Taj Hotels in Mumbai, Kerala and Hyderabad before going to The Maldives. I told her about the incredible breakfast pastries we received at the Taj Falaknuma Palace and that when I asked the waiter what they do with the leftovers, he said they throw them away. My heart sank.

I said, “That can’t be,” and asked them to box them up. Knowing what I planned to do, they added more pastries so we could give them to the hungry people who were literally just outside the gates of the lavish palace.

The medical assistant I was talking to said that’s what she and her family did every time they went out to dinner and had leftovers. She said they would write the contents on the bag and include utensils inside.

This is exactly what I do and I could have sworn I’d written about this years ago but I can’t find it so I suppose I didn’t. But whenever my family and I have leftover food from a meal at a restaurant, we box it up, include plastic utensils  and put it all in a bag. My wife has written the contents on the bag before so someone with food allergies knows what’s inside and I sometimes write the date and time so they know when the food was cooked.

Then we look for a person to give the food to or a place to leave it where we know someone in need will find it. With so many people experiencing homelessness all over the world and in this country, it only makes sense not to let your leftovers go to waste. Especially if you’re at a restaurant that has homeless people right outside or nearby. It doesn’t take much to ask someone if they want your food or if you don’t feel safe doing that, then just leave it on top of a garbage can.

There have been times I’ve seen people going through the trash and eating just bits and pieces of leftovers. Not long ago in a beach community in L.A., I saw a man grab something from the trash and scrape his finger along the wrapper just to get some of the jelly or sauce. He would have been more than happy to get a decent meal.

And on this topic, another thing I do: When I’m approached by someone asking for money, I’ll usually tell them I’ll buy them food instead. When this happened to me once in downtown L.A., I told the guy to come into the closest restaurant with me and order what he wanted. I paid and left. This way, I feel better knowing they’ve had something good to eat and won’t spend the money on drugs or alcohol.

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3 Comments On "How to Help Feed the Homeless When Traveling or at Home"
  1. KenP|

    You never know who you might be helping. Pulling into the parking lot at a Burger King, a guy approached me asking for money for food. He looked OK, like he was just looking for money for something else. So, I said no. I then when into the restaurant with my son and ordered a meal and sat down near the order counter. This same guy then comes in and orders the cheapest thing on the menu. Only he doesn’t have enough cash to cover the tax so the gal refuses to take his order. Hearing this,I get up and tell the order taker to give him anything he wants and I’ll pay for it. The guy starts crying. Like I said, you never know who really might be in need. I agree with Johnny, best to take someone inside a restaurant and let them order.

  2. Scott Salzman|

    Thank you for this post. The levels of poverty in third-world countries are astonishing. People go through garbage dumps to keep from starving and they do this daily to survive.

  3. Christ|

    I’ve become wary about giving out food randomly … I once bought a box of four pies at Santa Monica Whole Foods but only needed one. There was a homeless woman I’d seen outside and thought I’d give her the other three. But after opening the box she followed me down the sidewalk screaming and waving the pies and gave them back to me saying “No thanks!” I like your idea of having folks order for themselves.

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