Policy Prescriptions for Expanding Food Donation

The U.S. is fortunate to have some solid policies on the books that encourage food donation. Those include federal liability protection (a.k.a. the Good Samaritan Act) and tax incentives for food donors. Those policies have been central to spurring the donation of billions of pounds of surplus food to people in need each year. 

While we are fortunate to have these foundational policies in place, efforts to further strengthen and modernize them are needed. Such shifts could remove key barriers, foster innovation, and help meet the on-going challenge of food insecurity in our communities. 

Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and NRDC have released a new roadmap of recommended innovations in federal food donation policy.  Our analysis, Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donations Through Federal Policy, is a first-of-its kind report that offers practical steps the federal government can take to better align federal laws and policies with the goal of increasing the donation of safe surplus food. “Don’t Waste, Donate” offers 16 actionable recommendations in five key areas:

  • Enhancing liability protections for food donations, including food that is donated directly by the donor to individuals and food that is sold to recipients at a reduced price
  • Improving federal tax incentives for food donations, including creation of a tax incentive for transportation of donated foods and incentives that reflect the added costs farmers incur to donate food
  • Standardizing and clarify expiration date labels
  • Better monitoring and encouraging food donation by federal agencies
  • Modernizing and clarifying food safety guidance for food donations with input from food recovery organizations and donors operating in a variety of contexts and scales.

The report also includes appendices targeting these recommendations specifically to Congress, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as information on liability protections and tax incentives at the state level. The Food Donation Act of 2017 was recently introduced to enhance and extend liability protection for food donations in ways that mirror several of our recommendations.  

We live in a time of enormous abundance, tragic scarcity and staggering waste. We know that donating food will not fix the deeper causes of poverty that drive hunger in our communities. But we also recognize that until all families have the food they need, we need to work diligently and creatively to connect available food with those who lack it in our communities. Now we look to federal policymakers to do their part in realizing that promise.