ABC7 Solutions: LA nonprofit uses leftover catered meals from TV or film sets to help those in need

Every Day Action takes leftover catered meals from TV or film sets around L.A. and delivers them to those in need.

Phillip Palmer Image
Saturday, December 23, 2023
LA nonprofit uses leftover meals from movie sets to help those in need
The people collecting the food often work in the entertainment industry, and knowing how a set works makes the donation that much easier.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The ongoing effort to keep food waste out of the landfill is a combination of small, at-home actions and large scale changes in how waste is processed.

But most people would still rather food be consumed than tossed.

"We have so much food in our country, it's just about logistics," said Hillary Cohen, the co-founder of Every Day Action. "It's about taking the food that's here and putting it to the people who are here."

When Cohen began her career in the entertainment industry, on one of her first sets, she watched as perfectly good food was thrown away by the caterer.

"It was like nails on a chalkboard, and I was like, 'Why are you throwing this in the trash can? There is a person right here that's starving,'" Cohen recalled. "I was told it's just easier to throw it out. We're going to get sued if we help someone. We need to move on."

Cohen did move on, but she didn't forget.

Three years ago, Cohen along with another Directors Guild of America assistant director Samantha Luu created Every Day Action.

The nonprofit works with studios and production companies to collect excess food from caterers on sets to distribute to local nonprofits like Bridge to Home, whose residents get high end food to eat while the nonprofit gets help stretching an already thin budget.

"It allows us to provide more services for our residents ... transportation services, help them with housing," said Bridge to Home Shelter Manager Nicole Williams. "Once they get into housing, we can buy them furniture, we can just help them along the way, so it's a big help to not have to spend our money on additional food items."

The people collecting the food often work in the entertainment industry, and knowing how a set works makes the donation that much easier.

"The whole system of being able to take it from the set, and there's always a little extra here and there, and it's able to go to somewhere good," said J.R. Regalado, a chef for Bruce's Catering.

Cohen said it helps that everyone is "set savvy."

"We come and we always say, 'We don't care about Martin Scorsese on your set, we just want your mash potatoes,'" she said with a laugh.

Plus, it's not just food being provided. Every Day Action's Film Industry Driver Program employs artists like Stephen Gillikin, and in the process, he gets crucial supplemental income opportunities between gigs.

"For myself, I can say it's invaluable," he said. "The strike had stresses anyway, but it was nice to know that I'm financially covered. That part's safe, to have that security as an artist is remarkable."

Providing jobs, feeding those in need and keeping food waste out of the landfill. Every Day Action hopes to inspire people to do something for others - daily.