DONATE FOOD (H 1594, S 920 and S 1016)

By Bob Katzen

These three bills would provide civil liability protections to individuals, restaurants and organizations that make direct food donations to persons in need. The donor would also receive a tax credit of up to $5,000.

Supporters say that food insecurity levels across the commonwealth remain high and note that approximately 900,000 tons of food still end up in Bay State landfills every year.

“Currently, donations must be routed through nonprofits to receive liability protections, an onerous requirement that causes a large quantity of perishable food to go to waste,” said co-sponsor Sen. Ed Kennedy (D-Lowell). “For example, employees closing a pizza restaurant might refrain from giving a surplus pie to a homeless individual due to fear of liability. This legislation extends liability protections to cover direct donations of food to persons in need, ensuring that far more people can receive donations of unspoiled, perishable food.

“Research shows that anywhere from 30 percent to 40 percent of the food supply is wasted in the United States at every stage of food production and distribution,” said co-sponsors Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) and Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury). “Farmers, for example, often have crop yields which exceed the amount grocery stores or farmer’s markets will purchase, leaving fresh food to be thrown out or tilled under rather than sold and eaten.

“At the same time,” the pair continued, “the number of food insecure families continues to grow. A 2022 study done by the Greater Boston Food Bank found that 32 percent of Massachusetts residents lack food security. Reducing barriers to donation at the intersection of food waste and food insecurity directly targets both problems, allowing food to go to those who need it. Farmers have expressed that they would like to donate extra food and would do so if their labor and storage costs are reduced, and many local food panties, squeezed for resources, welcome the opportunity to fill their shelves and better serve their consumers.

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