Twenty-eight activists and religious workers were arrested by Prince George's County police yesterday after they refused to leave the head-quarters of the Giant Food grocery chain in Landover where they had hoped to persuade company officials to make food discarded in trash bins available to the poor.

The protesters, most of them from the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), which claims to provide meals collected from area trash dumpsters to 500 persons each day, were charged with trespassing. They had sat in the headquarters lobby from noon to about 4 p.m. hoping for a meeting with Giant executives.

The Rev. Jack Woodard of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church at 16th and Newton streets NW, one of two protesters who left the building before the arrests, said he was upset that Giant, which has 98 stores in the Washington area, has started locking its dumpsters to keep people from taking food.

"We're in business to sell food not discard it," said Barry Scher, Giant public affairs director. He said that safety and sanitary considerations make it impossible for the company to give away food considered unsaleable.

"Who's going to make that decision that this is spoiled and this isn't spoiled," added David Richman, the chain's director of quality assurance.

Scher said that at a meeting six weeks ago with members of the CCNV the company said it would be willing to give shelf-quality food to the group. He said Giant currently gives 20,000 pounds of food a month to food programs for the poor.

Justin Brown of CCNV said he believes that this represented nothing more than "a bribe."