Climate Change Mitigation

Food donation laws as a solution to combat hunger and food waste

By Emily Broad Leib, Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic

World Food Day is here once again, reminding us that we all must play a role in turning “zero hunger” from a goal into a reality. The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) are pleased to play their part in reducing the world’s “food print”— highlighting food donation as a solution to both food loss and waste and pervasive food insecurity.

FLPC and GFN, with the support of the Walmart Foundation, have joined forces to launch the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, a two-year collaborative project that will chart the laws and policies affecting food donation in 15 countries. In addition to providing a comparative legal analysis, this project will offer best practices and guidance to partner countries on how laws and policies can be improved to increase food donations and decrease food waste.

According to the United Nations, more than enough food is produced to feed every person in the world, yet an estimated 2 billion people suffer moderate to severe food insecurity. While so people go without adequate food, one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Around the world, communities are actively implementing and advocating for policy reforms to help move safe, surplus food into the hands of those who need it most.

The Atlas will contribute to these efforts by providing research to help make sense of laws relating to food donation, compare food-donation laws across countries and regions, analyze food donation barriers and share best practices and recommendations for policy improvements. Together, FLPC and GFN have identified 15 countries where the Atlas could be especially useful. In the first year, the Atlas will focus on Argentina, Canada, Chile, Mexico and the United States. The second year will bring in ten more countries.

In building the Atlas, FLPC will rely heavily on GFN’s on-the-ground food-bank partners, as well as other key stakeholders, such as food-rescue organizations and other non-profits, food donors, government agencies and academics. In addition to providing written legal guides to food donation and policy considerations for each country, the Atlas will outline our findings with a website and interactive map presenting countries’ food donation laws. This interactive tool will allow users to compare food donation laws across countries and to engage in meaningful dialogue with stakeholders around the world.

FLPC and GFN will present the tool and legal findings at public conferences and events in the coming year. In the meantime, we are excited to share some initial and noteworthy findings. For example, in Latin America we are seeing an unprecedent rate of legislative and policy development relevant to food recovery and donation.

Just a few months ago, Colombia passed a national law to reduce food loss and waste. Last year, Argentina passed a law to expand its Food Donation Law to provide liability protection to food donors, which helped Red de Bancos de Alimentos Argentina increase food donations by 30 percent in 2018. This civil liability protection closely adheres to The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act adopted in the United States over 20 years ago, and which has also been replicated at the provincial level in Canada.

While countries are approaching the problems of food waste and food insecurity differently, it is encouraging to see progress in overcoming major, and often universal, barriers to food donation. On this World Food Day, we want to recognize the steps that countries are taking to redirect safe, surplus food through liability protection, food safety laws and tax incentives, among other policy initiatives.

We are hopeful that the Atlas will further encourage countries to advance these efforts and to guarantee that the food intended for human consumption makes its way into the hands of those who need it most.

About the author:

Emily M. Broad Leib is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Deputy Director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. Broad Leib founded the Food Law and Policy Clinic, the first law school clinic in the nation devoted to providing legal and policy guidance on food law and policy issues. Broad Leib focuses her scholarship, teaching, and practice on find-ing solutions to the biggest health, economic, and environmental issues facing our food system. She has published scholarly articles in the Wisconsin Law Review, the Harvard Law & Policy Review, the Food & Drug Law Journal, and the Journal of Food Law & Policy, among others.

Broad Leib is recognized as a national leader in Food Law and Policy. She was named by Fortune and Food & Wine to their list of 2016’s Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink. The list highlights women who had the most transformative impact on what the public eats and drinks. Her work also has been covered in such media outlets as The New York Times, CNN, CBS This Morning, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, The Guardian, TIME, Politico, and the Washington Post. Broad Leib received her B.A. from Columbia University and her J.D. from Harvard Law School, cum laude.

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