Blog Post

A new video from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) addresses common misconceptions about food donation and highlights the expanded federal liability protections for businesses that donate food. Produced in partnership with Top Chef Tom Colicchio, the video illustrates how businesses can donate surplus food safely, preventing unnecessary waste. Common scenarios shown in the video include unserved plates of prepared food in the kitchen, excess catering from a canceled event, and surplus pasta sauce that is suitable for donation.

In summary, establishments like restaurants, caterers, food trucks, grocery stores, colleges, and hotels can confidently donate food to nonprofit organizations and individuals experiencing food insecurity. The expanded liability protections aim to facilitate the redistribution of quality surplus food rather than allowing it to go to waste. To learn more about these protections, read on!


Food Donation Laws and Protections

Businesses that donate food in good faith to nonprofit organizations were already federally protected from criminal and civil liability under the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which was passed in 1996.

In January 2023, the Food Donation Improvement Act (FDIA) was signed into federal law. The FDIA works to further combat food insecurity and wasted food by extending protection to businesses that donate food directly to individuals. The FDIA also extends the Emerson Act’s protections to food that is offered to recipients at a reduced price.

In light of the FDIA, the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic updated its fact sheet on the liability protections for food donation. This fact sheet clearly outlines the protections in place and who they apply to.

Massachusetts provides additional liability protections for food donors, even for food that is past date, so long as that food was handled following state food safety regulations. For more information see the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic Legal Fact Sheet for Massachusetts Food Donation: Liability Protections.

Here are some additional food donation resources:

  • RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks) offers food donation guidance for businesses and institutions. We can also help you set up ongoing programs through our no-cost technical assistance.
  • For examples of successful food donation programs, check out these case studies on Whole Foods Market in Medford and Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.
  • RecyclingWorks’ Find-A-Recycler tool can be used to find potential food donation outlets. Food rescue organizations in MA that are not already included on the Find-A-Recycler search tool can request to be listed by filling out this form.

If your business, institution, or school is looking for assistance setting up a food donation or another program that can help reduce waste, contact RecyclingWorks at 888-254-5525 or!