What's needed is an organization, or a network of organizations, licensed by county health officials to guarantee that safety standards are being met throughout the food collection and delivery process.
Such a guarantee would help mitigate recipients' legal risk.
There also needs to be an approval process for potential donors, such as hotels and restaurants, to ensure that employees know how to package food correctly for pickup. The Pomona students, for example, reduce the safety risk for the charity receiving their food by having the donations packaged by dining hall staff.
It wouldn't be cheap to run an operation like this. You'd need trucks or vans capable of safely transporting hot or cold food. You'd also need trained personnel or volunteers, and plenty of foil pans and covers. This is where philanthropists may have to get involved.
But is it doable? By all means.
And would it work? Well, ask the Rev. Andy Bales, chief executive of Union Rescue Mission in L.A.'s skid row neighborhood.
In my earlier column, I wrote how the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Assn. wanted to donate leftovers from an awards banquet to the mission, but Bales turned them down out of fear that he'd run afoul of local health authorities.
I asked him the other day if he'd have taken the food if it could have been delivered by an organization that works closely with health officials to ensure safety and regulatory compliance.
"Absolutely," Bales said, without hesitation. "It would be wonderful if there was an organization like that."
Yes, it would.
David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. he also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to email@example.com