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Recovery/Donations

Donating wholesome food for human consumption diverts food waste from landfills and puts food on the table for families in need. 

Donations of non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food from homes and businesses help stock the shelves at food banks, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters.  Donations of perishable prepared foods, typically collected from restaurants, caterers, corporate dining rooms, hotels, and other food establishments, also play an important role in feeding families in need, though such donations usually require special handling such as refrigerated trucks and prompt distribution.  See EPA’s Feed Families, Not Landfillsexternal link for donation tips and success stories. A list of some food donation charities is provided below. 

Gleaning

Gleaning—the act of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, gardens, farmers markets, or any other source in order to provide it to those in need—is an important source of fresh produce for food insecure families.  In 2011, for example, USDA gleaned 900,000 pounds of fresh produce for the Feds Feed Families Food Drive. 

USDA’s Let’s Glean, United We Serve Toolkit provides information on how to develop a successful gleaning program, including steps for finding donors:

For questions about gleaning, contact the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which compiled the USDA gleaning toolkit.  Email: collaborate@usda.gov; phone: 202-720-2032.

Federal Laws

A number of federal laws encourage food donation in the United States by providing liability protection to donors or tax incentives.  See the EPA’s websiteexternal link that provides additional information and resources.

  • The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act,external link which was created to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to qualified nonprofit organizations and provides liability protection to food donors.  Under this Act, as long as the donor has not acted with negligence or intentional misconduct, the company is not liable for damage incurred as the result of illness.
  • Internal Revenue Code 170(e)(3)external link provides enhanced tax deductions to businesses to encourage donations of fit and wholesome food to qualified nonprofit organizations serving the poor and needy.  Qualified business taxpayers can deduct the cost to produce the food and half the difference between the cost and full fair market value of the donated food.  
  • The U.S. Federal Food Donation Act of 2008external link specifies procurement contract language encouraging Federal agencies and contractors of Federal agencies to donate excess wholesome food to eligible nonprofit organizations to feed food-insecure people in the United States.

Organizations

A growing number of organizations--both charitable and for profit--are working to recover wholesome excess food to provide low or no-cost meals to families in need. The list of organizations presented here is not exhaustive. Inclusion on this list does not imply endorsement by the USDA.  (If you would like your organization listed, please contact FoodWasteChallenge@oce.usda.gov)

    • Ahiara Development Union USA Incexternal linkis a Houston-based IRS 501(C)3 Tax Exempt community organization that caters to the hungry, the needy and the poor here in the USA and Africa. Since 1992, we have been involved in the reduction of food wastage through the collection of surplus and about-to-waste food items and the distribution of this food to the hungry and needy.
    • AmpleHarvest.orgexternal linkis a nation-wide campaign that helps reduce food waste and diminish hunger by connecting backyard and community gardeners with food pantries in their area that are able to accept donations of excess garden bounty.  Instead of throwing your extra vegetables, fruits, or herbs into the compost pile, gardeners can donate them to a food pantry where they will go directly into the hands of hungry families.
    • Campus Kitchens Projectexternal linkis a national organization that empowers student volunteers to create innovative and lasting solutions to hunger. On campuses across the country, students transform unused food from dining halls, grocery stores, restaurants, and farmers’ markets into meals that are delivered to local agencies serving those in need. By taking the initiative to run a community kitchen, students develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills, along with a commitment to serve their community, that they will carry with them into future careers. Each Campus Kitchen goes beyond meals by using food as a tool to promote poverty solutions, implement garden initiatives, participate in nutrition education, and convene food policy events.
    • Community Harvest of Stark Countyexternal linkwas created in 1989 with the purpose of increasing the involvement of the restaurant and food service industry by collecting excess prepared and perishable food and donating it to community groups serving the homeless and the hungry in Stark County, OH.  As the only Perishable Food Rescue Program in Ohio to deliver food at NO COST, Community Harvest is now a "link" for over 90 local restaurants, caterers, grocery stores, and cafeterias to donate their excess, healthy food to 32 service organizations dedicated to alleviating hunger.
    • Community Platesexternal linkis committed to ending American food insecurity through technology fueled direct transfer food rescue. Our volunteer food runners rescue usable fresh food from food service organizations, otherwise intended for landfills and transfer them to organizations who serve our countries food insecure populations.
    • CropMobster™ external linkmission is to reduce food waste by better connecting food producers and retailers with consumers and hunger relief organizations. This simultaneously reduces food waste, reduces food insecurity, supports local businesses and builds community. CropMobster™ allows working farmers, ranchers, producers and other food sellers to get the word out FAST about crop mobs, food gleaning events, discount sales, freebies and more. Using CropMobster™ takes minutes, not the usual hours to find a home for surplus and allows small operations to reach thousands of people almost instantaneously. Facebook / Twitter
    • DC Central Kitchenexternal linkthrough job training, healthy food distribution, and local farm partnerships, DC Central Kitchen offers path-breaking solutions to poverty, hunger, and poor health. The 5,000 meals DC Central Kitchen dishes out every day are loaded into its fleet of trucks and distributed at little or no cost to 100 nearby homeless shelters, transitional homes, and nonprofit organizations, saving them money and nourishing their clients. DC Central Kitchen fights food waste by recovering food from grocery stores, restaurants, wholesalers, farms, corporate food services, catered events and farmers markets. Last year DC Central Kitchen recovered 707,008 lbs. of food, including 321,075 lbs. of produce.
    • Donate Don't Dumpexternal linkis a teen run non-profit created by a 12 year old to end commercial food waste and draw attention to the issue of hunger. Over 4,000 members and 20 Chapters at universities to elementary schools have recovered over 850,000 pounds of surplus and short dated food from grocers, growers, and food companies.  Their mission is to make food rescue and the Donate Don’t Dump Logo as common as recycling, 
    • Feeding Americaexternal linkis a nationwide network of food banks leading the fight to end hunger in the United States. Together, they provide 3.3 billion pounds of food to more than 37 million people a year in communities across America. Feeding America supports programs that improve food security; educates the public about hunger; advocates for legislation to reduce hunger; and leads in efforts to connect wholesome food that might otherwise be wasted to needy families.  Contact them for resources on donating, and for information on how to maximize tax deductions for food donated. Together we can solve hunger.

      Feeding America’s food waste initiatives.external link

      Feeding America's food bank locator tool. external link

    • Food Busexternal linkis a public charity that works to design, implement and maintain systems by which unused/unopened food leftover from elementary school lunches is saved from being thrown out as waste and then is distributed to local food pantries.  We buy refrigerators, carts, boxes and other supplies that schools need in order to store food instead of discarding it.  Food Bus coordinates volunteers who then pick up the food and distribute it to local food pantries, while also managing and developing the relationships between elementary schools and pantries.
    • Food Forward external linkfounded in 2009, is a volunteer-powered grassroots group in Los Angeles that rescues fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste, connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same.  Food Forward volunteers harvest excess fruits and vegetables from properties to which they have been invited, donating 100% to local food pantries. Combined, its numerous distribution partners provide food to over 40,000 clients a month across Southern California. 
    • Food Donation Connection external linkprovides an alternative to discarding surplus wholesome food by linking food service donors with surplus food to local hunger relief agencies. We do this by creating and maintaining an efficient communication and reporting network that links available sources of food to those in need through these existing charitable organizations.  The donating process is based on donors receiving economic benefit through tax savings in addition to involvement with community and corporate goodwill. Food Donation Connection does not compete with non-profits for the limited funding that is currently available from government and private sources. Instead, our funding comes from a small portion of our donor partners’ incremental tax savings that is earned from properly saving and donating their surplus food. In exchange for this funding, we coordinate all aspects of our donor partner’s food donation programs.
    • Food Recovery Networkexternal linkunites students on college campuses to fight waste and feed people by donating the surplus unsold food from their colleges and donating it to hungry Americans. Founded in 2011, FRN has grown to include chapters at more than 95 colleges and universities in 26 states, DC and Puerto Rico that have recovered over 400,000 pounds of food. Each chapter works with on-campus dining halls and other, off-campus eateries to divert food from the landfill to community members in need, while also raising awareness on issues of food waste and hunger in America. By May 2015, Food Recovery Network aims to be on 150 campuses and to have donated 610,000 pounds of food.
    • Friendship Donations Network external linkrescues fresh nutritious food from area stores and farms that would otherwise be thrown away and redistributes it to neighbors in need. FDN’s extensive network of volunteers picks up donations of mostly perishable excess and day-old food and delivers it to pantries and programs that serve more than 2,100 people weekly. FDN diverts over 500,000 lbs. of good food from the landfill each year.
    • Keep Austin Fed external linkis a grass roots group of local volunteers that gathers healthy consumable surplus food from local food sources (restaurants, caterers, urban farmers etc) and distributes it to area charities in Austin, Texas to feed their hungry clients. This surplus food helps the charities stretch the food budget they may have as well as keeping surplus food out of the waste stream.
    • LA Kitchenexternal link
      California’s farmlands span 25 million acres, and produce nearly half of the nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts, but every year millions of tons of edible produce never makes it to market. By working directly with local farmers and produce wholesale companies, L.A. Kitchen will recover fruits and vegetables that are unsalable due to cosmetic issues or lack of commercial demand. Volunteers, students, and staff at L.A. Kitchen’s health-code approved food processing hub will transform all donations and purchases into healthy meals, snacks, and food products that will strengthen the local community.

      With the produce LA Kitchen recovers, they will:

      1. Prepare healthy meals, snacks, and food products to strengthen the community
      2. Train older adults returning from prison and youth aging out of foster care in the culinary arts
      3. Provide powerful volunteer and employment opportunities for Los Angeles residents
    • Lovin’ Spoonfuls external linkis an organization that facilitates the recovery and distribution of healthy, perishable food that would otherwise be discarded. Lovin’ Spoonfuls works efficiently to deliver this food directly to the community organizations and resources where it can have the greatest impact. Lovin’ Spoonfuls is committed to addressing the health, environmental and economic impact that food waste has on our community. Headquartered in Boston, MA, Lovin’ Spoonfuls is a 501c3, non-profit organization.
    • Move For Hunger,external link which was founded in 2009, is the first and only non-profit organization working with the relocation industry to fight hunger across North America. Many people throw away items when they move. Unfortunately, many of these same items include food that could be delivered to a family in need rather than thrown away. Move for Hunger picks up unopened, non-perishable food items during the moving process and delivers it to local food banks. Move for Hunger now works with over 630 moving companies and over 1,500 real estate professionals across North America. Together, they have delivered over 3,000,000 pounds of food to the food banks. This is enough to provider over 2,500,000 life saving meals for those in need. Move For Hunger offers many ways for your community to get involved in the fight against hunger.
    • Nourish Nowexternal linkworks to alleviate food insecurity in Montgomery County, MD and beyond by reducing the waste of unused, fresh food. Since our founding in May 2011, Nourish Now has donated over 165,000 pounds of food. Nourish Now collects donations of surplus fresh food from restaurants, caterers and other food businesses, and redistributes that food to families in need, at-risk youth groups, shelters, food banks and other organizations that assist in feeding the hungry.
    • Rescuing Leftover Cuisineexternal link is what people are getting involved in doing whenever they can, whenever they want. The mission of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, Inc. is to become the world’s most widely used solution for companies and individuals to eliminate food waste in their communities, making food rescue sustainable and universal, and food hunger a thing of the past. You can get involved on your own schedule to rescue food from being wasted so that it can be used to feed the hungry. Join us!
    • Rock and Wrap it Up! external linkis an award winning national hunger relief program that recovers food and other assets to donate to agencies fighting poverty.  Rock and Wrap it Up! provides 100,000 meals every week from the leftovers from schools, hotels, sporting events, rock concerts, political gatherings, film and television productions.  Its partnerships include 150 music bands; 60 professional sports franchises, including the entire National Hockey league, and colleges like Columbia, UCLA, and the University of Florida.  Hotel-chain partnerships include Marriott, Grand Hyatt, and Sheraton.  Film and television partners include NBC/Universal, HBO, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
    • Rotary First Harvest works with farmers, truckers and volunteers to bring valuable skills and resources to hunger relief efforts in communities across Washington state. Since 1982, Rotary First Harvest has actively sought donations of surplus fruits and vegetables – typically in 40,000 pound quantities – directly from farmers and processors. Rotary First Harvest has also developed a collaborative gleaning program, Harvest Against Hunger, that places AmeriCorps*VISTA members in communities around Washington to develop produce recovery programs to support local hunger relief groups.
    • Rust Belt Riders Compostingexternal linkis a bike-based worker-cooperative serving the residents of Cleveland. Through a subscription service we work with families and gardeners from around Cleveland to convert the formers waste into the latter’s fuel. Together we divert waste from landfills and in doing so cultivating neighbors and food for all to enjoy."
    • S.C.R.A.P Gallery's external linkmission is to actively engage youth as stewards of their environment through a concentrated, hands-on, educational effort stressing the Four R's – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Responsibility. The S.C.R.A.P. Gallery is an innovative program that addresses two of today's most urgent issues – the environment and the education of our youth. Conservation and reuse through hands-on exploration with discarded materials is promoted at the S.C.R.A.P. Gallery. Arts and science workshops help students understand complex environmental issues. One of S.C.R.A.P. Gallery’s programs is focused on reducing food waste in local schools and growing food at schools for school consumption and/or to share with local food banks.
    • Society of St. Andrewexternal linkis a grassroots, faith-based, hunger relief nonprofit organization working with all denominations to bridge the hunger gap between the billions of pounds of food wasted every year in this country and the millions of Americans who live in poverty. For over 30 years, they have worked with donors, volunteers, and farmers to glean nutritious excess produce from fields and orchards after harvest and deliver it to people in need across the United States.
    • We Don’t Waste external linksources surplus food from venues, events, caterers, restaurants, sports franchises, and other major food distributors and delivers the food to nearly 50 community-based non-profit agencies in the Denver Metro area providing food to children, individuals, veterans, seniors, families, and the homeless. Collectively, these agencies serve over 5,000 individuals daily. Since September 2009 through June 2013, We Don’t Waste collected donated food valued at over $2.5 million, translating to more than 3,000,000 servings for Denver’s underserved.