TRENTON- Legislation sponsored by Senator Bob Smith intended to expand liability protections for food donation and gleaning activities was approved today by the Assembly.
“Huge volumes of food are wasted each day, while many people in the United States and in New Jersey go to sleep hungry,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “As a state, we need to reduce food waste and for those who have the best intention of donating food to the needy, removing the complexities of the law to provide commonsense protections is the intent of this legislation. Ultimately, wasting food does not make economic or environmental sense.”
The bill, S-3026, clarifies and expands liability protection for food donors and gleaners to donations made to any person. The bill would also provide protections for donations of food which has passed its “best by” or similar date but still appears to be fit for human consumption and expand the protections regardless of any laws regulating the quality of food labeling. Under the bill, nonprofit organizations that collect or glean agricultural food for the purposes of feeding needy people would not be held liable for damages in any civil action due to the presence or activity of the organization or volunteers unless the damage is a direct result of a gross negligence, recklessness or knowing misconduct of the nonprofit organization or volunteer. The bill would also require the Department of Agriculture to prepare and publish on its Internet website a guidance document that provides information on the State and federal liability protections available for food donations, gleaning, and other related activities.
Americans waste a shocking amount of food every year with as much as 40 percent of the food in the U.S. going uneaten. This accounts for 160 billion pounds of food wasted each year. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture these statistics are made even worse when you consider that 42.2 million Americans live in food insecure households. Apart from the human cost, reducing food waste is beneficial for the environment; reducing water, fertilizer, and oil use, and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Food waste in the United States produces the annual equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of 33 million passenger vehicles.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2012, the United States threw away more than 36 million tons of food; from that, less than 5 percent was recycled. Much of it ended up rotting in landfills, releasing methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change. The EPA estimates that if 50 percent of the food waste generated each year in the U.S. were anaerobically digested, enough electricity would be generated to power 2.5 million homes for a year.
The bill cleared the Assembly with a vote of 65-0-0. It cleared the Senate with a vote of 39-0. It next heads to the Governor’s desk.