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
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.
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.
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.
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:
(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).
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.
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.
Policy Opportunities and Recommendations
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
or best practices for safety of donated foods, and very few states have implemented such resources at the state level.
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
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.