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Food Donations

Why Should Businesses Donate Food?

The USDA states that up to 40% of food in the United States goes uneaten, while CalRecycle reports that food accounts for 18% of waste in California’s landfills. Through anaerobic decomposition, this waste produces the second largest source of human-related methane in California. In Los Angeles County, 1.68 million people have limited access to food, making the County the largest food-insecure population in the United States.

Feed People, Not Landfills! The World Food Summit defines food security as existing “when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” One in eight Americans struggle with food insecurity, not knowing from where their next mean will come (Feeding America). In California, 4.8 million people are food insecure (L.A. County Department of Public Health). Meanwhile, many businesses are unaware that donations of surplus or expired prepackaged food are protected by the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.

Donation Benefits

According to an analysis by the Green Restaurant Association, a single restaurant can produce approximately 25,000 to 75,000 pounds of food waste in one year.

By donating edible food, businesses may:

  • Receive tax incentives. Speak to your financial advisor and food recovery partner about potential tax benefits and savings.
  • Minimize food insecurity. Help others maintain a healthy and active life.
  • Decrease waste collection. Reduce overall waste disposal at a business. By donating edible food.
  • Comply with state and local waste mandates. Contact your Athens representative to see if your business is required to recycle their organics waste and/or donate edible food. For information on California legislation, click here.
  • Reduce food waste to landfill. Lessen negative environmental impacts.
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Donations Are Legally Protected.

Food donations are legally protected and supported by the California Department of Public Health. The California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (AB 1219) provides liability protections for entities that make good faith donations of surplus food. The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act also protects businesses from civil and criminal liability, should donated products cause any harm to the recipient. For further information, please contact your county’s Department of Public Health or your food recovery partner. Click here for contact information.

What Can Be Donated?

Acceptable items may vary among food recovery organizations. Permitted food service establishments, processors, and distributors may donate* the following to nonprofits and directly to individuals:

  • Whole produce and baked goods
  • Prepackaged foods
  • Expired prepackaged foods
  • Food prepared by a permitted food facility

* Food previously served to a consumer generally cannot be donated.

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Contact your food recovery partner to learn what kinds of foods they collect and to coordinate a pick-up.

Food Date Labels

Confusion over date labels contributes to 20% of wasted food. Food date labels generally indicate quality, not safety. The California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act explicitly states that the donation of past-date food is subject to liability protection. There is no federal food-date labeling law. Your food recovery partner will work with you to decipher when food can and cannot be donated.

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How to Donate

Four Easy Steps
1. Set Up Your Program:

Identify and contact a food recovery partner or contact your Athens Services representative for more information.

2. Sort & Save:

Collect edible food per your food recovery partnership agreement.

3. Call:

Arrange pick up from your food recovery partner

4. Repeat!
Tips for Donating
  • Track food and set a surplus reduction goal.
  • Select a food recovery partner in advance.
  • Create a food recovery plan with your food recovery partner (including acceptable food types, schedule, and collection logistics).
  • Avoid last-minute donations, if possible.
  • Check out Athens’ additional resources.

Find A Food Recovery Partner

Food recovery organizations arrange the collection of donated food from your place of business and deliver to nonprofit recipients like shelters, food kitchens, pantries, and missions. Experienced food recovery organizations can assist businesses with food donation setup, needs, and concerns. Prior to donating, please be sure to arrange an initial meeting to discuss partnership logistics.

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Find a Partner

City of LA

If your business is in City of Los Angeles, please click here to identify your food recovery partners.

County of Los Angeles

Long Beach

San Bernardino County

Additional Resources

California Legislation

  • AB 1826 – Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling Law
    requires businesses that create 2 or more cubic yards per week of municipal solid waste to implement organics waste recycling (including landscape waste and food waste). Please note, under AB 1826, multi-family dwellings are not required to have a food waste diversion program, only green waste recycling services.
  • SB 1383 – Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Law
    targets reduction of methane emissions from landfills by requiring a 50% reduction of statewide disposal of organics waste (from 2014 level) by 2020 and a 75% reduction by 2025. It establishes an additional target that 20% of currently disposed edible food is recovered for human consumption by 2025.

Food Reduction and Recovery Resources

United States Environmental Protection Agency

  • EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Provides a Sustainable Materials Management Program, tools for preventing and diverting wasted food, and a platform for friendly competition among businesses and organizations.
  • EPA’s Food Recovery in Los Angeles: Includes source reduction tools, success stories, and donation options.
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Los Angeles County Food Redistribution Initiative: LA County Department of Public Health site
provides resources to the public about safe methods to prevent, donate, and recycle excess food. Includes
Guidance for Food Operators brochure, share table guide for schools, and additional resources.

Los Angeles Food Policy Council: Food Waste Prevention & Rescue Working Group promotes strategies
for food waste prevention, food recovery and donation, and composting. Includes #FreetheFood Impact
Guide and Los Angeles Area Food Recovery Guide.

Save the Food: Provides planning, storage tips, and tools to reduce edible food waste. Includes
interactive storage guide, guest-imator, and tips for cooking with food scraps.

Food DROP LA: Provides business resources including Food Donation Toolkit and Food Donation
Tracking Form.

Further with Food: Users share their responses, initiatives, tools, and best practices geared to curb food

Interested in starting organics recycling at your business? Click here.