Lost Food and Liability: The Good Samaritan Food Donation Law Story

March 2002

Issue: 57 Food and Drug Law Journal 107-132 (2002).

According to recent studies, the United States throws away more than one quarter of the food it produces. This sobering statistic begs the question of why the country wastes so much food while hunger afflicts millions of Americans.

Over the past quarter century, Good Samaritan food donation laws have emerged as a tool that may alleviate this problem. These measures seek to encourage donations of food by limiting the liability of food donors. Since 1977, every state has enacted a Good Samaritan food donation law, and Congress has passed two such measures at the federal level.

This article traces the growth of the movement for Good Samaritan food donation laws. It also examines the current situation concerning these measures, exploring unresolved legal issues and the impact of these laws on hunger relief efforts. This last issue may be the most important, because if Good Samaritan food donation laws fulfill their promise, they could do much to combat the hunger that stands as an obstacle to a substantial part of the American population achieving its full potential.


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