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Why Should Businesses Donate Food?

The USDA states that up to 40% of food in the United States goes uneaten1, while CalRecycle reports that food accounts for 18% of waste in California’s landfills2. Through anaerobic decomposition, this waste produces the second largest source of human-related methane in California. In Los Angeles County, 1.1 million people have limited access to food, making the County the largest food-insecure population in the United States3.

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 seven Americans struggle with food insecurity, not knowing where their next meal will come from4. As of 2020, 8 million people in California are food insecure5.

California Requires Food Donation. As part of Senate Bill (SB) 1383, Edible Food Generators (considered Tier 1 and Tier 2) must:

  • Donate the maximum amount of surplus edible food 

  • Hold written agreements with each donation partner  

  • Maintain records of donated food and partner contacts

For more information on SB 1383 compliance, please visit

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 6.

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. For more information, click here.
  • Reduce food waste to landfill. Lessen negative environmental impacts.
Feed People Not Landfill Seal

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 click here to connect with your local food recovery partner.

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, including recently expired
  • 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 is estimated to contribute to about 20% of wasted food 7. 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.

Check out Athens’ Decoding Food Date Labels video for tips on how to truly assess food quality.

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How to Donate

Four Easy Steps
1. Set Up Your Program

Identify and contact a food recovery partner or contact the Athens Customer Care Center (888) 336-6100 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

Please contact the food recovery organization prior to donating to verify what they can and cannot accept. If your city is not listed, choose “General Directories” to find a food recovery 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

    • San Bernardino County Department of Public Health: Scroll to Charitable Feeding Operations section for food recovery partners, Donating Surplus Food brochure, Donation Tool Kit, legal protections, and Charitable Feeding Operations Training Module
  • San Bernardino, Department of Public Health Contact: website or (800) 442-2283
  • Additional Resources

    Additional Resources


    Managing food before it goes bad can be a balancing act for households and businesses. Fortunately, simple actions like changing purchasing habits, meal planning more efficiently, and practicing better food storage organization can help reduce food waste at the source.

    For residential tips on storage, recipes, and using a food waste “Guest-imator,” visit

    To help Prevent Food From Reaching the Landfill, CalRecycle provides the following guidance and resources to help manage food waste at:

    Food Reduction & Recovery Resources

    Food Recovery in LA County: The EPA provides source reduction tools, success stories, and donation options specific to Los Angeles County.

    EPA Tools for Preventing and Diverting Wasted Food: The EPA provides a variety of resources to encourage sustainable food management, including tools for food waste assessments and audits, reducing wasted food and packing, webinars, and school resources. Their Peer-to-Peer Exchange Webinars offer case studies of successful food waste reduction programs in educational institutions and restaurants.

    Los Angeles County Food Redistribution Initiative (LACFRI): The LA County Department of Public Health provides resources to the public about safe methods to prevent, donate, and recycle excess food. Their toolkit includes a Guidance for Food Operators brochure, share table guide for schools, and additional resources.

    Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC): The Food Waste Prevention & Rescue Working Group promotes strategies for food waste prevention, food recovery and donation, and composting. Their toolkit includes the #FreetheFood Impact Guide and Los Angeles Area Food Recovery Guide.

    Save the Food: The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) provides planning, storage tips, and tools to reduce edible food waste. Their campaign includes an interactive storage guide, guest-imator, and tips for cooking with food scraps.

    Further with Food: The Center for Food Loss and Waste Solutions provides a platform for users to share their feedback, experiences, initiatives, tools, and best practices geared towards curbing food waste.


    • Los Angeles County Food DROP Program: The Food DROP Program provides an interactive map that lists the contact information for food recovery and food rescue organizations within LA County.
    • Food Pantries: Food Pantries is a free online directory of faith-based, government, and non-profit food pantries and food banks in California. Food Pantries enables businesses to search for food recovery opportunities available in each city and county.

    Food Donation App

    • Careit: Careit is a free online donation matching marketplace for edible food generators and food recovery organizations to responsibly donate their surplus food and resources. Careit enables businesses, governments, and food recovery organizations to maintain uniform food donation records.


    1. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Food Waste FAQs
    2. CalRecycle – Preventing Food From Reaching the Landfill
    3. Feeding America – Food Insecurity Report Briefs: Map the Meal Gap 2020
    4. Feeding America – The Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity: The Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity in 2020 & 2021
    5. California Association of Food Banks – Hunger Data
    6. Business Insider – American Restaurants Are Wasting an Incredible Amount of Food – Here’s the Proof
    7. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) – Confused by Date Labels on Packaged Foods?

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