What's the best way to feed the poor? In Spain, the small town of Galdakao has taken a very direct approach by installing a community fridge. Citizens, restaurants, and supermarkets can leave leftover food there, and anyone who wants it can simply come get it. According to a story on NPR 

There are rules: no raw meat, fish or eggs. Homemade food must be labeled with a date and thrown out after four days. But Javier Goikoetxea, one of the volunteers who cleans out the fridge, says nothing lasts that long.

"Restaurants drop off their leftover tapas at night — and they're gone by next morning," he says. "We even have grannies who cook especially for this fridge. And after weekend barbecues, you'll find it stocked with ribs and sausage."

The small expense of the community fridge is paid for by the city. Mayor Ibon Uribe says, "We approved a small budget of 5,000 euros (about $5,580) right away to pay for the fridge and an initial health safety study, as well as electricity and upkeep."

The fridge not only feeds the hungry but helps cut down on waste. In the United States, recent data suggests that as much as "133 billion pounds of food ... [or] 31 percent of the total food supply" is wasted in a typical year, rather than going to feed someone --  a waste which Pope Francis said is "like stealing from the table of the poor and the hungry."  

But food safety laws prevent communities in the U.S. from setting up community refrigerators like the one in Spain.  A couple of UC Davis students ran afoul of these laws when their community refrigerator was shut down after a few months of food-sharing last year. 

Yolo County health officials who red-tagged the refrigerator as an illegal food facility back in November determined that because the free.go refrigerator was an unregulated food exchange, Bertone could not guarantee the food inside was safe to eat.

The official cited public health risks such as “contamination; exposure to food-borne illnesses; unintentional exposure to those with food allergies and compromised immune systems; and the risk of eating recalled foods."

In Galdakao, Spain, the mayor has found a way to protect the town from liability in the face of those risks, saying, 

[W]e granted this fridge a special independent legal status, so that the city can't be sued if someone gets sick.

Would it be possible to find a similar work-around in the United States?

One-to-one service programs are always immensely appealing, because they are so simple and practical, and, as the UC Davis students point out, projects like the community fridge foster "a great sense of community that’s lacking in most communities. This is kind of a cool way to encourage it.”

Is it naive to hope that some brilliant lawyer can draft a waiver that citizens can sign when they take food from a community fridge, promising not to sue if someone gets sick? Or would that put the already-beleaguered FDA in an even tighter spot as food travels further and faster, and it gets harder to balance the needs of the community with the logistical demands of food producers?

It is, at least, encouraging that young people are trying to solve basic problems like the hunger of people who live in their neighborhoods. It is a good thing when altruists study the best way to make sure their good deeds actually help, rather than making problems worse; but it is a bad thing when, as Vox's Dylan Matthews reports, the work of one group of self-styled "effective altruists" abandons the goal of actually helping actual people. Matthews says that the organization he shadowed originally had a noble goal, and "pushed philanthropy toward evidence and away from giving based on personal whims and sentiment."

But, he says, 

Now [the group Effective Altruism is] becoming more and more about funding computer science research to forestall an artificial intelligence–provoked apocalypse. At the risk of overgeneralizing, the computer science majors have convinced each other that the best way to save the world is to do computer science research. Compared to that, multiple attendees said, global poverty is a "rounding error."

Not to hungry people, it's not. But it's not a simple thing to ensure the safety of a community, and help those in need, and avoid perpetuating the problem. 

Have you seen simple, effective, poverty-fighting measures in your community? What has worked, and what has not?