Legal Tips for Restaurants Who Wish to Donate Surplus Food

As a restaurateur, you’re well aware of the massive quantities of food that can go to waste at the end of each work day. Aside from the benefit of not letting food go to waste, implementing a food donation strategy can work nicely as a part of your overall charitable works program – giving “feels goods” to you, your consumers, and the community at large.

That said, if you wish to donate excess food from your restaurant, you’ll need to follow specific procedures to do so. It also helps to know the laws which protect and help you. Here are some tips to assist you along the way.

Good Faith Food Donors are Protected from Liability

Millions of pounds of food and groceries go to waste every year. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was signed into law in 1996 to protect would-be food donors from liability so that food can go to people rather than landfills. The law specifically protects you from liability when you donate to a non-profit organization and from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient. The only exceptions to this protection occur in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

Restaurants can Donate both Perishable and Non-Perishable Foods

While it’s no surprise that unopened or canned food can be donated to food banks and distribution centers, you may be pleasantly surprised to know that prepared perishable foods can be donated as well – as long as appropriate steps are taken. Those appropriate steps include proper handling according to the U.S. Food Code and ServSafe practices and must address restaurant handling, food rescue transportation, and recipient agency storage with regards to thawing and reheating requirements.
As the donating restaurant, your job is to hold the would-be food donation at a temperature higher than 140 degrees until it is ready to donate. At that point, it must be stored in food-safe, sanitized plastic bags or containers, labeled with the date and time of storage, and rapidly cooled to under 41 degrees.
Frozen prepared food should be donated within a week, whereas refrigerated food should be donated within 72 hours. There are a number of food-rescue programs whose sole purpose is to fetch such food from restaurants and distribute it to the appropriate centers – making food donation in the restaurant that much easier.

Tax Deductions for Restaurants Who Donate Food

According to the Internal Revenue Code Section 170(e)(3), you are entitled to a deduction for a contribution to a charitable organization. The Federal Tax Code also provides that wholesome food which is properly saved, donated to a qualified non-profit organization, and accurately documented may be eligible for an incremental deduction (typically the lesser half of the food’s appreciated value). This law is permanent for C-corporations, but has to be extended every two years for non-C corporations.
It’s important to remember that the above information is intended for informative purposes only, and you should definitely consult your attorney to discover any additional information pertinent to your individual situation prior to implementing a food donation program.  That said, it can be done, and if you’re the sort of person who would rather see good food go to people rather than to waste, it’s well worth the time it will take to investigate any additional details.

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One Response to “Legal Tips for Restaurants Who Wish to Donate Surplus Food”

  1. Kathy Mitro Says:

    The more people involved in this wonderful type of empathetic compassion for sharing food the more we as a society evolve upwards.
    Laws put in place making such donations mandatory will expedite a final ending to all hunger.
    Please support

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