California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Food Scraps Management

Food Rescue and Food Banks

Feeding hungry people with donations of extra food is an integral part of resource conservation. Organizations served by food rescue and food bank programs include community centers, soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, senior programs, and childcare centers.

  • Food rescue means recovering healthy foods and making fast deliveries to those in need. This is the highest and best use for perishable food. The Fresno Metro Ministry Food Recovery project, which takes excess perishable food to hungry people, is an example.
  • Food Finders is a community-based food rescue organization in Southern California, that serves as a conduit, between donors and people in need.
  • Food rescue in Southern California also includes Waste Not OC Coalition which works to help meet the nutritional needs of the community by facilitating the donation and distribution of surplus food.
  • Food banks are organizations that collect food from a variety of sources, and distribute it to hungry people through local service agencies.  The California Association of Food Banks which has a membership of 43 food banks, is one of the leading organizations in California. Major programs include Farm to Family which works with growers and packers to provide fresh produce to banks.

How do I contact a food rescue or food bank organization in my area?

Food Recovery Hierarchy triangle

Food Donation

  • The US EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy ranks food donations to feed hungry people as a top priority to help reduce wasted food. The top levels of the hierarchy are the best ways to prevent waste and bring most benefits for the environment.

Food Donations in your community

  • Food donors include food processors and manufacturers, grocers, wholesalers, farmers, and organized community food drives.
  • Perishable and prepared foods are typically collected from restaurants, caterers, corporate dining rooms, and hotels for prompt distribution to hungry people in their communities.
  • Donated food includes edible food from events, products affected by labeling regulations or manufacturing glitches, expired coupons, or code-dated products.
  • Donating surplus food inventory to food rescue or food banks reduces warehouse storage and disposal costs.

How does the law protect businesses from liability?

  • The "Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act" (Public Law 104-210) makes it easier for businesses to donate to food rescue and food bank programs. It protects donors from liability when donating to nonprofit organizations and protects donors from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith cause harm to the needy recipient.

Tax benefits for donating food

Food donors are advised to consult with their tax adviser for information on tax deductions.

For information on tax credit in California, please see the California Legislative Information, on Assembly Bill 152, Fuentes, regarding donations to food banks, voluntary contributions, and income tax credits.

More information

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