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 Landfills for donation tips and success stories. A list of some food donation charities is provided below.
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: email@example.com; phone: 202-720-2032.
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 website that provides additional information and resources.
- The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, 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) 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 2008 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.
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)
- 412 Food Rescue is a nonprofit with an innovative technology-based model that aims to fight hunger and promote sustainability by preventing perfectly viable food from entering the waste stream and directly distributing to organizations that benefit those who are hungry. 412 Food Rescue is a rapid response organization with a reverse logistics model that utilizes technology to aggregate and intelligently match food donors and beneficiaries and mobilizes the largest community of volunteers to efficiently and cost-effectively transport food between locations. Core to our approach is a highly scalable and replicable solution to one of the most important problems impacting our health and our environment.
- Ahiara Development Union USA Inc is 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.
- Aloha Harvest, a nonprofit established in 1999, is the sole food rescue organization in the State of Hawaii. We pick up quality perishable and non-perishable food from 340 donors, and deliver it on the same day, free of charge, to over 180 non-profit agencies. Each year we rescue over 1.8 million pounds of food from the waste management system to feed over 52,000 of Hawaii’s needy and destitute.
- AmpleHarvest.org is 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.
- Boston Area Gleaners is a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing surplus farm crops for people in need. We organize groups of volunteers to venture to eastern Massachusetts farm fields to harvest, or “glean,” fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be plowed under. We then distribute this high-quality, nutritious food to food banks, pantries, and meal programs that serve food-insecure individuals. Our goal is to increase equity in the food system by building a supply chain of surplus produce between local farms and food-insecure community members. Learn more, sign up to volunteer, or support our work by visiting our website.
- Campus Kitchens Project is 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 County was 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 Plates is 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.
- CoverYourNeighbor is a 501c3 organization that helps recover and distribute healthy, perishable food that would otherwise be discarded. CoverYourNeighbor gathers consumable surplus food from local food sources such as grocery stores and restaurants and at NO COST works efficiently to deliver this food directly to the community organizations and resources where it can have the greatest impact.
- CropMobster™ mission 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.
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- DC Central Kitchen through 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 Dump is 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,
- ExtraFood.org picks up excess fresh food from any business in Marin County, California and delivers it immediately to nonprofit food programs that serve Marin's most vulnerable people. In its first 20 months of operation ExtraFood has delivered over 315,000 pounds of food from 100+ food donors to 60 nonprofits serving thousands of low-income residents across Marin County, where over 50,000 people can't make ends meet.
- Feeding America is a nationwide network of food banks leading the fight to end hunger in the United States. Together, they provide 4.8 billion pounds of food, 2.6 billion pounds recovered from potential landfill, to more than 46 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.
Feeding America's food bank locator tool.