Smith Bill Providing Protection for Food Donation Now Law

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TRENTON- Legislation sponsored by Senator Bob Smith intended to expand liability protections for food donation and gleaning activities was signed into law yesterday.

“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 new law, S-3026, clarifies and expands liability protection for food donors and gleaners to donations made to any person. The law 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 law, 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 law 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.

S-3026 cleared the Assembly with a vote of65-0-0. It cleared the Senate with a vote of 32-0.