Promoting Food Donation: Food Donation Requirements and Food Waste Deterrence Policies

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To help address the most pressing and universal legal and policy questions surrounding food recovery and donation, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) have partnered to create The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas. This innovative partnership maps the laws and policies affecting donations in 15 countries over the course of two years. The project aims to: identify and explain national laws relating to food donation, analyze the most common legal barriers to promoting greater food donation, and share best practices and recommendations for overcoming these barriers.

Food loss and waste (FLW) is one of the greatest food system challenges. FLW occurs at every stage of the supply chain and generates significant social, environmental, and economic costs. An estimated one-third of food produced globally is ultimately lost or wasted along the supply chain. This amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tons of food each year that ends up in landfills. At the same time, the number of undernourished people in the world increased to 828 million in 2022—an increase of about 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 2.3 billion people (29.3 percent of the global population)
were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021—350 million more compared to before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic—with 924 million people (11.7 percent of the global population) facing food insecurity at severe levels, an increase of 207 million in two years.

Thoughtful public policies can help address the troubling mismatch between rates of food waste and rates of extreme hunger. Food donation offers a solution to these parallel issues. Redirecting safe, surplus food to those who need it decreases FLW while increasing food security. However, scaling food donation requires aligned incentives or requirements that motivate individuals and companies to donate rather than discard safe, surplus food. Increasingly, countries around the world are adopting new policies that deter the disposal of organic matter into landfills, where it emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas with a concentrated global warming potential.

These policies, collectively referred to in this issue brief as “food waste deterrence laws and policies,” have varied designs, from tax penalties to bans or fees for organic waste disposal. The following text box lists and defines the primary food waste deterrence policies seen in countries around the world.

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