Food Businesses, Nonprofits Urge Congress to Remove Barriers to Food Donation

Food businesses and nonprofit organizations recently released an open letter urging Congress to pass a bill intended to fight hunger by removing barriers to food donation.

According to the nonprofit ReFED, the United States generated 80.6 million tons of surplus food, or 35 percent of total food production, in 2019. And Feeding America projects that 42 million people—one in eight U.S. residents—will experience food insecurity in 2021.

The Bill, known as the The Food Donation Improvement Act of 2021, is sponsored by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn). It aims to expand protections for food manufacturers, retailers, farmers, and restaurants who wish to donate excess food but fear liability.

The open letter, which is signed by more than 25 groups including WW International, City Harvest, and the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, advocates for these protections to include businesses that are donating directly to recipients in need. Current protections only cover companies that donate to nonprofit organizations.

“Promoting and enabling the donation of safe, surplus food is a highly effective and simple tool to curb food waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and address food insecurity,” Emily Broad Leib, Director for the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic tells Food Tank. “Yet, our current laws fall short of really encouraging businesses to donate food instead of tossing it into landfill.”

In 1996, Congress passed the Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. While designed to encourage companies to donate excess food and provide civil and criminal liability protections, businesses still avoid food donations to eliminate the risk of litigation.

ReFED estimates that 34.2 percent of excess food made its way to landfills, while just 3.5 percent was donated in 2019.

In addition to expanding protections, the letter asks Congress to provide clearer guidance and best practices to help businesses understand which foods they can donate and when. It also suggests further incentivizing donations through an expansion of tax deductions.

To learn more about this issue join Food Tank and WW International at 1:00PM EST on Thursday December 16, 2021, for the virtual event “Fighting Food Waste Through the Emerson Act.”

Experts will discuss existing barriers to food donation and the importance of The Food Donation Improvement Act.

Speakers include U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass), Emily Broad-Leib of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, Jenny Murphy of City Harvest, Tim Carman of the Washington Post, Mindy Grossman of WW International, and Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank, with more to be announced soon. Register now by clicking HERE.

Photo courtesy of Joel Muniz, Unsplash

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