California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Food Scraps Management

Food Banks and Food Recovery Organizations

What are food banks and food recovery organizations, and how do they operate?

Agencies served by food banks and recovery (also known as food rescue) organizations include community centers, soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, senior programs, and childcare centers. Many of these agencies visit the food bank each week to select fresh produce and packaged products for their meal programs or food pantries.

  • Food banks are community-based, professional organizations that collect food from a variety of sources, save the food in a warehouse, then distribute it to hungry families and individuals through local human service agencies. Most food banks tend to collect non-perishable foods such as canned goods because they can be stored for a longer time.
  • Food recovery organizations take excess perishable and prepared food and distribute it to agencies that serve hungry people.

How do I contact a food bank or recovery organization in my area?

  • There are several organizations that can direct you to a local food bank or recovery organization. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery publishes lists of food recovery organizations sorted by county and region and in alphabetical order.

Typical food donors

  • Typical food bank donors of include large manufacturers, supermarket chains, wholesalers, farmers, food brokers, and organized community food drives. Perishable and prepared foods are typically collected from restaurants, caterers, corporate dining rooms, hotels, and other food establishments for prompt distribution to hungry people in their communities.
  • Donated food includes leftovers from events, products affected by labeling regulations or manufacturing glitches, expired coupons or code dates, test-market products, and food drive collections.
  • Donating surplus food inventory to food banks can be safe, efficient, and cost-effective. It reduces warehouse storage and disposal costs, and your local food bank can pick up donations free of charge.
  • Gifts to food banks are covered by a number of liability protections, including national Good Samaritan laws (see below). Donations can also generate tax benefits for businesses.

How does the law protect businesses from liability?

  • The "Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act" (Public Law 104-210) makes it easier for businesses to donate to food banks and food recovery programs. It protects donors from liability when donating to nonprofit organizations and protects donors from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the needy recipient.
  • The law also sets a liability floor of "gross negligence" or intentional misconduct for persons who donate grocery products. It recognizes that the provision of food close to recommended date of sale is, in and of itself, not grounds for finding gross negligence. For example, cereal can be donated if it is marked close to code date for retail sale.
  • Food banks also protect their donors by offering a variety of liability protections, including strict standards of warehouse operation, proper storage and handling procedures, complete product tracking and recall capabilities, and accurate and timely receipting.

Tax benefits for donating food

The information below should be used only as a guide. Donors are advised to consult with their tax advisor in applying the appropriate deduction.

  • The general rule since 1969 states that a taxpayer who contributes appreciated inventory or certain other ordinary income property is permitted a charitable deduction for an amount equal to the taxpayer's basis in the contributed property (not its fair market value).
  • Congress further refined the statute to allow corporate donors an increased deduction, under certain circumstances, for contributions of ordinary income property to a public charity or to a private operating foundation.

More information

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