Helping Businesses Reduce Hunger and Waste

Past Featured Donor

Dozens of regional businesses have committed to Fork It Over! Read about the program's featured donors.

Past Featured Donor: Claey's Catering


Garbage cans aren’t hungry, but many Oregonians are

By Jim Claeys, Owner Claey's Catering


I’ve never liked waste.

Unfortunately, we caterers often end up with surplus food at the end of an event. That’s because it’s standard operating procedure to make more food than will be needed, in order to make sure we don’t run out. Restaurants, too, often have excess food at closing time. Usually, we assume the only option is to throw all that perfectly good food away, which to me seems downright wasteful.


Reducing waste was the reason I went searching a few years ago for a way to donate my surplus food. When my daughter found Metro’s Fork It Over! website, we were surprised to learn that there was a participating food rescue agency right across the street. What could be easier than walking our donations over to them? Later, I learned that 180,000 tons of food a year is thrown away in the Portland area alone. I think it’s safe to assume that much of that food was perfectly edible. I just don’t understand why anyone would choose to pay garbage fees to haul that food away when donating is free and has so many more benefits to the community.


Today, I’m proud to say that Claeys’ Catering is still donating food to our nearby agency, the North Plains Senior Center, as well as to Sunshine Pantry. On any given day, we may have surplus food ranging from a single pan of lasagna to 700 servings of uneaten party food. Luckily, there are food rescue agencies of all shapes and sizes throughout our region who will take different types and quantities of food – and they are easy to find at


The beauty of Fork It Over! is that it allows restaurants and caterers to connect individually with food rescue agencies and develop mutually beneficial relationships that meet everyone’s needs. There’s no overwhelming paperwork or bureaucratic wrangling. You just plug in your address and up pops the food rescue agency nearest to you, just a phone call away. You’re free to develop your own relationships and donation arrangements with the agencies.


Some food rescue agencies have refrigerated trucks that allow them to accept large quantities of perishable items and many have regular routes to which you can be added. Others will pick up at night, which is handy if you have surplus food from dinner operations.


If you haven’t donated because you are worried about liability, you should know that federal and state “Good Samaritan” laws protect restaurants and caterers when donating surplus food that they believe is safe for consumption. Of course, at Claeys’ Catering, we always use safe food handling procedures, whether we are preparing or packaging food for our clients or for donation. That’s just a good business practice.


The best part of our experience with Fork It Over! is the long-term relationships we have built with our nearby rescue agencies, which have made donating simple. These agencies know our needs and we know theirs. We don’t have to waste surplus food anymore, knowing it’s being fed to hungry families who need it. I also believe we’re helping build a stronger, closer-knit community by sharing what we have to give.


I encourage restaurants and caterers throughout the region to visit and give it a try. It’s easy and it’s also the right thing to do.


Jim Claeys can be reached at 503-647-1987 or