The House and Senate have passed legislation to curb food waste while reducing food insecurity. The bill, known as the Food Donation Improvement Act, is now heading to the President’s desk for President Biden’s signature.
“Hunger is inevitable. We live in a rich country,” says Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts). “There is plenty of food for everyone.”
Companies often discard safe and healthy food for fear of being held accountable if donated products make someone sick. But the Food Donation Improvement Act expands protections for manufacturers, retailers, farmers, and restaurants to encourage donations. It also makes it easier for businesses to donate food directly to people in need.
“This bill will remove legal barriers that discourage food donations by restaurants, retailers and others,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
The bipartisan bill passed the Senate unanimously, while the House passed it by voice vote.
“Promoting and enabling safe surplus food donations is a highly effective and simple tool for curbing food waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and addressing food insecurity.” Emily Broad Rabe, FLPC, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, tells Food Tank.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 34 million people lived in food-insecure households in the United States in 2021. But about a third of surplus food ends up in landfills, where greenhouse gases are emitted, reports the nonprofit ReFED. Only 3.5% of food was donated in 2019.
“We’re not running out of food,” McGovern said. “We have a mismatch between abundance and need.”
The bill’s passage follows advocacy by businesses and civil society organizations that have called on Congress to address this disparity. In 2021, a coalition of businesses and nonprofits released an open letter urging Congress to pass the Better Food Giving Act.
And last summer, food waste advocates held an educational event at the Capitol to help policymakers understand the bill’s importance. The Healthy Living Coalition, WeightWatchers International, Grubhub, FLPC, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Bread for the World were among the organizers behind the convening.
Niyeti Shah, senior manager of social impact at WeighWatchers, calls the victory “a monumental victory for food policy.”
“We have proven that Congress, businesses, nonprofits and citizens are ready to make food the star,” Shah told Food Tank. “Thank you to the 73 businesses, 58 bipartisan lawmakers and over 60,000 citizens who made this happen. We know this is just the beginning.”
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