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Food Donation for Institutions and Businesses

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Where Does Food Donation Fit in a Food Recovery Strategy?

Food Donation should be one of the top strategies to reduce and manage excess food. Donating diverts excess food from disposal and gets it to people who can benefit most. This graphic of USEPA's Food Recovery Hierarchy clearly shows donation near the top.

What is a Food Bank, Food Pantry or Soup Kitchen?

Food Banks, food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters all work to feed the hungry. Food banks are regional centers that collect food from a variety of sources, save the food in a warehouse, and then distribute it to needy families and individuals through local human service agencies. A map of food banks located in New York State and other useful information on donating can be found at the Food Bank Association of New York State. All food banks collect non-perishable foods such as canned goods because they can be stored for a long time. Some food banks also accept perishable and prepared food and then distribute it to food programs that serve the hungry.

Food Pantries accept and distribute unprepared foods while soup kitchens accept and distribute prepared food to their clients.

Who Donates Food?

Non-perishable food can be donated by just about anyone including private citizens, community organizations, wholesalers, supermarkets, and manufacturers. Perishable and prepared foods are typically donated by farmers, restaurants, caterers, corporate dining rooms, hotels, and other food establishments for prompt distribution to hungry people in their communities.

GleanNY is a collaborative effort to increase food donation from New York's farms for food banks.

Benefits of Donating Food

  • Helps fight hunger;
  • Enhances employee pride and promotes good will in the community;
  • Keeps food wastes out of landfills which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Can be safe, efficient, and cost-effective;
  • Saves money on organics recycling or disposal costs (In many cases, the recipient organization will pick up donations free of charge); and
  • Saves money through tax benefits (see below).

How to Donate Prepared Food

If a food bank doesn't accept prepared, unserved foods, the food bank can guide potential donors to soup kitchens that can accept this food. Every regional food bank website in NYS lists the soup kitchens and pantries in their region. Excess prepared and unserved food should be packaged, weighed and stored following a systematic and preventative approach to food safety. Weighing the food helps the donor better understand how much food they have over-prepared which helps to reduce excess food preparation in the future. Note: All food service establishments should already have staff trained in safe food handling practices based on the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCPs). City Harvest of New York City provides guidance to donors regarding proper food storage.

Donor Protection from Liability

One concern that donors often express, especially when donating prepared foods, is liability. The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, Public Law 104-210, protects donors from liability when donating to nonprofit organizations. If the food is donated in good faith, the donor is protected from civil and criminal liability from a recipient that claims the food was a source of harm.

Tax Benefits for Donating Food

Donors may be able to receive an enhanced deduction for donating food. Section 170(e)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code encourages donations by allowing C corporations to earn an enhanced tax deduction for donating selected surplus property, including food. The enhanced deduction is equal to ½ of the donated food's appreciated value, with the limitation that the total deduction cannot exceed twice the donated food's basis cost. This enhanced deduction effectively doubles the maximum available tax benefit. For more information view Feeding America's summary of federal tax incentives for food donations and Gleaning for the World's summary of the accelerated tax benefit.

Donors are advised to consult with their tax advisor in applying the appropriate deduction.