Using the Law to Feed the Hungry: Food Recovery Information Project to Connect Businesses, Non-Profits
Posted on January 25, 2013
An estimated 28.6 percent of Arkansas children are “food insecure.” Yet at the same time, an estimated 250 pounds of food per person per year is wasted in the United States and other industrialized countries. With financial support of $12,000 from the University of Arkansas Women’s Giving Circle, University of Arkansas School of Law Professor Susan Schneider and her team are working on solutions through the “Food Recovery Information Project.”
Schneider, the director of the School of Law’s Agricultural and Food Law LL.M. program, will work with LL.M. candidate James Haley and additional student volunteers to create a legal guide to food donation to help businesses develop a plan to donate food safely.
“This began informally with me asking local restaurants and grocery stores what they do with their food waste,” Schneider explained, “And I had produce managers telling me – incorrectly – that it’s illegal for them to donate food for human consumption.”
Schneider quickly realized the need for legal clarity with regard to food donation, and the idea for the guide was born.
“The fears these businesses have are largely unfounded as food donations to non-profit organizations have protection under the federal “Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.” Every business that deals with food should have a policy for how they handle food, and if we can help with the liability aspect of that policy, we can increase donations to feed the hungry,” Schneider said.
The guide will walk businesses through the statutory protection and analyze what a business needs to do in order to stay within the boundaries of the law. It will also provide examples of how some businesses handle the donation of food wastes and the non-profit organizations that are interested in receiving donations.
Once liability issues are addressed, restaurants, grocery stores and others can be paired with organizations like Feed Fayetteville who can help businesses work out the logistical issues involved with their donations.
The reach of the legal guide will go beyond just donations to food banks and food pantries – Schneider envisions donations from food retailers like grocery stores and restaurants to local farms.
“Food wastes that can’t be donated for human consumption can be used as part of livestock feed, or they can be composted. Our first goal in this project is feeding the hungry, but beyond that, we want to get businesses thinking and talking about other creative solutions for food wastes so that the absolute last option is dumping everything in a landfill,” Schneider said.
Schneider, Haley and L.L.M. candidate volunteers plan to produce the guide and have it ready for distribution by the end of the semester. A website sharing the same information is planned as well, in the hopes of reaching businesses outside of the region.
“If you backtrack from that plate of food that’s being thrown out, and you look at everything that went into growing and processing that food, packaging it, transporting it, selling it and preparing it, the waste involved with throwing out a plate of food takes on a new meaning,” Schneider said.
So what’s in it for businesses?
Aside from a potential tax deduction for their charitable donation of food to food banks, businesses may see a decrease in the cost for waste removal as less food is thrown in the trash. In addition, Schneider points out that donations of leftover food or food wastes are good for a business’s public image.
“It’s good PR for a business to be able to say that instead of throwing food into a landfill, it goes to feed hungry children in the community or that it goes to feed livestock at a local farm. There’s a growing interest in eating locally produced food, and it’s good business to be able to say that you’re helping the environment, feeding the hungry and helping out local farmers all at the same time.”
About the organizers:
Professor Susan Schneider is the director of the School of Law’s LL.M. program in agricultural and food law. She is a graduate of the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. She earned her J.D. from the University of Minnesota School of Law and her LL.M. in agricultural law in from the University of Arkansas School of Law. Schneider’s private practice and advocacy work in agricultural law includes positions with firms in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Washington, D.C. She is a past president of the American Agricultural Law Association (AALA) and a two-term board member. She was the 2010 recipient of the AALA Distinguished Service Award and received the AALA Professional Scholarship Award in 2011. Schneider serves on the editorial board of the new Agriculture & Food Security Journal, a peer-reviewed open access journal that addresses the challenge of global food security.
James D. Haley, Food Recovery Information Project Research Fellow, is a candidate in the LL.M. program in agricultural and food law at the University of Arkansas School of Law. He received his J.D. from the University of Arkansas, where he served as the executive editor of the Journal of Food Law & Policy and as an extern in Wal-Mart’s environmental compliance department. Haley received his M.B.A. from Columbia Southern University while on active duty in the United States Marine Corps, where he served in the infantry for 20 years. Haley is admitted to practice law in the State of Arkansas.