How a New Bill Can Help Fight Food Waste and Hunger

During a recent event hosted by Food Tank and WW International, policymakers, business leaders, and food waste experts advocated for Congress to pass a new Bill intended to keep surplus food out of landfills and redirect it to those in need. 

“We’re a food rich nation, but we had extremes in hunger during the pandemic,” Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) tells Food Tank. 

Feeding America estimates that 42 million Americans will experience hunger in 2021. Despite this, 35 percent of the total food production in the United States went unsold or uneaten in 2019, according to research from ReFED. 

Pingree says that the bipartisan Food Donation Improvement Act is one solution to help get healthy, nutritious food to those experiencing food insecurity. 

The Bill, recently introduced to the Senate by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) will update the existing Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, passed by Congress in 1996. 

Emily Broad Leib, Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, tells Food Tank that the Bill Emerson Food Donation Act was “a visionary law,” intended to address the food waste and food insecurity crises. But, the panelists argue, it falls short. 

Steven Jennings, Brand Lead, Health & Sustainability for Ahold Delhaize USA explains that retailers still fear they are legally responsible for their donations. And in many cases, there is confusion around what they can or cannot donate. 

“The problem is it becomes more convenient and less worrisome to throw food in the dumpster,” Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) tells Food Tank. 

The new Bill will strengthen liability protections to food businesses including manufacturers, retailers, farmers, and restaurants who wish to donate surplus food. It will also clarify existing guidance and best practices to help businesses donate food safely and without risk of litigation. 

Jenny Murphy, Senior Director, Supply Chain, for City Harvest, the largest food rescue organization in New York City, believes that the updates to the Act will have a significant impact. Murphy believes it will be “incredible to be able to refer our neighbors to their own neighbors and their own pantries and soup kitchens in their areas,” she tells Food Tank. 

Rather than discuss hunger management, “we ought to be talking about zero hunger,” McGovern says. “So let’s make it easier for people to donate and businesses to donate, and I think we can get this done.”  

To help garner additional support for the Food Donation Improvement Act, companies including WW International are raising awareness about the Bill and are calling on Congress to pass it. 

And Mindy Grossman, CEO of WW International maintains that everyone can do their part to achieve this goal. “We need all of the stakeholders to get involved and help us pass the Food Donation Improvement Act.” By doing this, she says, “it [will] create a sea change.”

Watch the full event below:

Photo courtesy of Aaron Doucett, Unsplash

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