In the United States 40% of food produced goes uneaten. That equates to about 62.5 million tons of wasted food every year. Meanwhile, there were 42.2 million people, including 13.1 million children, who did not have enough food to lead a healthy, active lifestyle in 2015. Donating surplus wholesome food instead of throwing it in the trash can feed hungry people, save space in local landfills, and prevent the emission of harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
State law allows the donation of surplus foods that are still fit for human consumption. Permitted food facilities such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, food processing facilities, food distributors, and caterers may donate prepared foods to nonprofit charitable organizations, food banks, and directly to individuals. Foods previously served to a consumer generally cannot be donated.
Individuals can donate uncooked, pre-packaged food products (e.g. canned food items) to a food bank or other nonprofit charitable organization for distribution to persons free of charge.
AB1219: California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
On October 9, 2017, Governor Brown signed into law AB 1219 which expands liability protection to donations made by “food facilities” (which are subject to food safety regulations and inspections) directly to individuals for consumption. The new law also provides clarity by creating a more comprehensive list of entities covered by the law and explicitly stating that the donation of foods beyond their recommended labeled shelf life date is subject to liability protection. It also requires environmental health specialists to educate regulated facilities about existing liability protections for food donors in order to increase the awareness of Good Samaritan laws for food donations.
AB1219 was effective as of January 1, 2018. For the text of the new law see:
Donors must abide by federal, state, and local applicable laws and ordinances, including zoning.