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United States: Policy Highlights and Opportunities

The U.S. sends about 63 million tons of food to landfills each year. This waste consumes 21% of all fresh water, 19% of fertilizer, and 18% of cropland in the U.S. At the same time, 11 percent of U.S. households were food insecure in 2018.

Atlas Research: United States

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Legal Guide

Learn more about the legal frameworks relevant to food donation and how the United State's existing laws and policies support or hinder the country's progress.

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Policy Recommendations

Dive into recommendations for policymakers based on the gaps and opportunities identified in the legal guides.


Executive Summary

Read highlights of the research findings and our high-level recommendations.


Policy Highlights

The United States research was published in June 2020 and was made possible with the advice and support of our on-site partners, including Feeding America.
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Liability Protection for Food Donations

The U.S. was the first country to offer liability protections for food donations, and still maintains one of the strongest protections around. 

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The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 provides comprehensive federal protection from civil and criminal liability to food donors and the nonprofit organizations that distribute food donations.

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Tax Incentives

The U.S. offers one of the most generous tax incentives for food donors. U.S. taxpayers who donate food are eligible for two deductions under federal law: 

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(1) a general tax deduction of the basis value of the food that applies to all charitable contributions, and (2) an enhanced tax deduction for qualified food donations that offers a higher benefit (up to 2x the basis value).

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Government Grants & Incentives

The U.S. stands out among countries as one of the most generous in terms of governmental support for food recovery and donation. 

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Ongoing federal support goes to all states from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides nearly $100 million in administrative support and $500 million in surplus food items to local agencies per year.

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Policy Opportunities and Recommendations

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Food Safety for Donations

One area for action in the U.S. is to clarify the food safety rules that apply to donated foods, as the country has no clear regulations or guidance regarding the requirements 

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or best practices for safety of donated foods, and very few states have implemented such resources at the state level.

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Date Labeling

Unclear and misleading date labels in the U.S. lead to millions of tons of waste. Unlike other countries, which have standard labels to distinguish foods that are likely to 

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decline in quality past the date versus those that will decline in safety, the U.S. does not have standard labels, though both FDA and USDA suggest that manufacturers use the term “Best if Used By” when the label is intended to indicate a quality date.

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Mapping food donation policies around the world

The Atlas map compares food donation laws and policies in different countries and evaluates legislation across several issue areas. Use the map to see where your country stands and learn from best practices around the world.

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Learn more about the Atlas and how to support this work.

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About Us

Learn about the project and the partners behind this flagship research.


Read our detailed project methodology rooted in inclusion, accuracy, and transparency.

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Contact Us

Connect with our project team and learn about opportunities to join and support our work.