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Toomey, Blumenthal Announce Bipartisan Bill to Allow Food Banks to Help More Families in Need

January 8, 2020

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are working to help food banks collect and distribute more food to needy families with the introduction of the bipartisan Food Donation Improvement Act of 2019.

New and innovative food assistance models repurpose items from donating entities and sell prepared dishes like microwavable dinners for a nominal cost. But federal law does not currently extend liability protections to food donors when food is either given directly to a person in need or when a recipient pays a deeply reduced cost.

"Donating food to the less fortunate should be as easy as possible," said Senator Toomey. "But liability concerns limit the number of people who can be served by food banks. This new legislation will help get more food to those who need it most by extending liability protections for direct donations and reduced-price food."

"Too many manufacturers, retailers, restaurants and other potential food donors across the country regularly decide against donating food to those in need out of fear of liability," said Senator Blumenthal. "As a result, millions of tons of food go to waste while Americans who are food insecure continue to go hungry. The Food Donation Improvement Act closes this gap by clarifying liability protections, while enabling more timely and efficient food donations."

The legislation is endorsed by 412 Food Rescue, Feeding Pennsylvania, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association.

"Food banks rely upon donations to serve the more than 1.5 million Pennsylvanians facing hunger," said Jane Clements-Smith, Feeding Pennsylvania Executive Director. "Thanks to Senator Toomey and his Food Donation Improvement Act, we are hopeful that more farmers and retailers will feel comfortable donating food now that they will be protected from liability. Feeding Pennsylvania is grateful to have been able to work with Senator Toomey to ensure that more food makes it to Pennsylvanians in need while also ensuring that less food ends up going to waste."

Specifically, the Food Donation Improvement Act would:

  • Extend liability protections to food-donating entities (grocers, caterers, schools, etc.) and food banks for food sold at a reduced price
  • Extend liability protections to qualified donors who give food directly to needy individuals and families without going through a non-profit intermediary
  • Require USDA to issue regulations clarifying the quality and labeling standards donated food must meet

Just before Thanksgiving, Senator Toomey visited New Bethany Ministries in Bethlehem, Pa. to preview this legislation. During his visit, Senator Toomey said:

"There are a lot of folks doing great, great work and I really think this legislation could help them to do even more. I'm determined to get this one across the goal line, especially after hearing how specifically beneficial it's going to be for the folks in Bethlehem."

You can read about his visit here, and you can read the bill here.