'You Have to Try to Fix It Yourself'

Jack Davis, a red-headed 11-year-old from Florida, has issues with leftovers. 

Jack's concern about what happens to the thousands of pounds of leftover food generated by Florida's restaurants earned him the spotlight in ABC's weekly feature,   “Person of the Week,” on World News with Charles Gibson. You see, character and responsibility aren't traits restricted to grownups. 

Gibson set up the story on the January 11th broadcast like this:

“Jack Davis is only 11. But he had a pretty grown-up idea. He was disturbed to learn that Florida restaurants throw out food that could be given to the hungry and the homeless, because the restaurant owners could be sued if any of the food's recipients became ill or developed food poisoning.”

After visiting a homeless shelter on school field trips, Davis said he became concerned about people going hungry. He talked to his parents about the problem and was told that a law would need to be passed in order to protect restaurant owners who wanted give away their leftovers. 

It is safe to say that most adults would have stopped at that roadblock.  But not a child.  Kids don't see the world the same way adults do. For kids changing a law isn't necessarily any harder than changing your socks.   

Gibson reported that Jack asked his dad to “float the idea” with local lawmakers.  Meanwhile, Jack's mom Yasmin said she tried to “protect” him from being disappointed.

“I tried to protect him a little bit and said, 'You know chances are, nothing's going to happen. These people get a lot of mail. E-mails. And you're just an 11-year-old.'”

But mom was wrong. Gibson's feature nicely made that point.

GIBSON: The legislators loved it.

SEN. NAN RICH (D): I was very excited to hear that an 11-year-old would be interested in doing something like this. It's exciting, really, that he, at such a young age, is now going to make such a big difference in the lives of a lot of people.

GIBSON: It now seems that Jack's idea will become law.

JACK: If you take away the reason why restaurants will not give food, they will. And it's kind of a win-win situation 'cause the restaurants get to do something good.

GIBSON: Restaurant owners agree.

KIM KOCH, Owner Christabelle's Quarter: I think it's a fabulous idea. We do waste a lot of food. And, you know, as we know, we can't resell it. And it just goes to waste. This 11-year-old, I love him.

Davis told ABC that a feature story the Miami Herald ran on him made him a celebrity with his sixth grade classmates.  And while he said it was fun, he added, “If you think there's a problem in the world, you don't wait for other people to fix it. You have to try to fix it yourself.”

From the mouths of babes. 

One wonders what the world would be like if more people took Jack's advice. 

 Jack's bill, now known as the Florida Restaurant Lending a Helping Hand Act, "amends provisions regarding liability for canned and perishable food distributed free of charge by expanding the definition of 'perishable food' to include foods that have been prepared at a licensed public food service establishment. Simply put, the bill will permit restaurants and other public food establishments to donate perishable foods to charitable or nonprofit organizations for the benefit of persons in need," according to state senator Nan Rich, one of the sponsors of the bill. Current Florida law applies to a "good faith donor" and has generally been interpreted to mean individuals or groups, not food service businesses.

The Miami Herald reported on January 9 that the bill, known as HB 0099 in the Florida House and SB 276 in the state's Senate, was approved unanimously by the Senate Business Regulation Committee and had only “one more stop” before being voted on by the full Senate.  The measure has the backing of the 10,000 member Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. It is sponsored in the Florida House by Representative Ari Porth.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.