Food Donation Apple Logo and Crates of salvaged produce ready to be distributed

Food Donation in Vermont

Feed People Not Landfills

Vermont’s Universal Recycling law adopted a Food Recovery Hierarchy into law in 2012. Vermont is the first state in the nation to legislatively adopt priority management for food before it is discarded. 

The USEPA and USDA estimate that over 30% of the United States food supply is wasted. In 2010 an estimated 133 billion pounds of food never was eaten. In response to the impact of wasted food on the environment, the USEPA and USDA announced in September 2015 a national goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. 

Food loss and waste has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change. Food loss and waste is the single largest component of disposed U.S. municipal solid waste, and accounts for a significant portion of U.S. methane emissions. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in the United States. Furthermore, experts have projected that reducing food losses by just 15 percent would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year, helping to sharply reduce incidences of food insecurity for millions.

"Let's feed people, not landfills. By reducing wasted food in landfills, we cut harmful methane emissions that fuel climate change, conserve our natural resources, and protect our planet for future generations" said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Vermont Food Recovery Heirarchy

Food Recovery Challenge

The goal of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge is to lead a fundamental shift in how we think about and manage food and food waste in this country. The Challenge includes a goal to have 400 partner organizations by 2015 and 1,000 by 2020.

Through its Food Recovery Challenge, EPA will provide U.S. Food Waste Challenge participants with the opportunity to access data management software and technical assistance ( to help them quantify and improve their sustainable food management practices. 

To join the Challenge and learn more about USDA's activities and the activities of those who have already joined, visit:

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is a Food Recovery Challenge Endorser.

USDA banner and EPA bannerUS EPA banner

Why Donate Edible Food?

Under the Universal Recycling law, businesses and institutions are required to divert discarded food from the landfill beginning in 2014 if within 20 miles of a certified facility that can process it. With a significant amount of that discarded food being edible, businesses and institutions can save money on collection costs and be eligible for tax benefits by donating the edible food to charities and diverting the rest through composting or anaerobic digestion. Donating food to charities has federal liability protection under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. 

The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic prepared a fact sheet regarding federal liability protection and tax incentives for food donation. Diverting food for donation is one way to prevent wasted food.

What Edible Food Can Be Donated?

Most types of food can be donated. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act provides protection from liability for the donation of food that is ‘apparently wholesome’ without visible quality issues. 

When donating food, it is important to remember that the donation is for human consumption and needs to be handled accordingly. If food looks or smells bad, is moldy, or has damaged packaging do not donate it – compost it! All donated food should be protected to prevent food contamination by storing in packages, covered containers, or wrappings. 

For more information, see Donation for Businesses and Institution Guidance below, which summarizes storage requirements and unacceptable conditions for donated food by category. If you have any questions about food safety contact the Vermont Department of Health 802-863-7221 or visit

The Vermont Foodbank and Feeding America also provide guidance to food shelves and donation partners on what can be donated and how donated food should be handled. This includes guidance for donating meat, non-perishable foods, other perishable foods, and prepared meals

Federal Liability Protection & Tax Benefits

USDA List of National Donation Organizations and Laws
The Enhanced Federal Tax Deduction for Food Donations (April 2016)
FDA Food Code 2013
Food Recovery: a legal guide
ServSafe Food Safety Training
Comprehensive Guidelines for Food Recovery Programs​

Vermont Laws and Regulations

VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 12 § 5762 (1983). Title: Liability for canned or perishable foods or farm products distributed free of charge. This law protects a donor who donates any canned or perishable food or farm product to a charitable or nonprofit organization for free distribution from criminal or civil liability arising from the condition of the food, except in cases that the “donor has actual or constructive knowledge that the food is adulterated, tainted, contaminated or harmful to the health or well-being of the person consuming said food.” 

VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 12 § 5793 (1997). Title: Liability limited. This law protects an owner from liability for property damage or personal injury sustained by a person who enters the owner’s land for a “recreational use,” including “gleaning” as defined by law, except in cases of willful or wanton misconduct of the owner.

Learn more from these fact sheets about:
Liability Protection
Tax Incentives
Date Labeling

Vermont Resources and Guidance

There are many resources and organizations available to find further information and assistance with setting up a food donation program. Below is a list of additional resources and organizations. If you have any questions about setting up Food Donation programs call Agency of Natural Resources - Solid Waste Management Program at 802-828-1138.

Materials Management Map: 

Look for the purple food donation apple for a food shelf near you that may be able to accept edible food donations. If you are a food shelf, and you do not see your location listed, you can submit a request to be added or for a correction to be made by submitting the following form:

Share Table K-12 Guidance (Click here to view pdf)

This guidance was developed as an effort to mitigate wasted food in K-12 schools that may result from purchasing items that a student may not want to eat but is able to be shared with other students. The Agency of Natural Resources has partnered with the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Education to develop guidance for implementing a share table in Vermont’s K-12 school that is supported by Vermont’s state agencies with regulatory oversight. 

Donation Guidance for Businesses and Institutions (Click here to view pdf)

Refer to this guidance document when evaluating the opportunity to initiate donation of edible food to a food rescue organization. The Agency of Natural Resources has partnered with the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Education to develop guidance for implementing or expanding a food donation program at a Vermont business or intuition. 

External Resources and Tools

National Gleaning Project logo   National Gleaning Project 

The purpose of this guide is to provide an information resource to enable the above mentioned end users to research the laws pertaining to gleaning and food recovery, explore the work of other similar organizations, and connect with those organizations to consider opportunities for collaboration at the local, state, regional and national levels. Consequently, this guide includes national and state laws and regulations pertaining to gleaning and food donation, a comprehensive guide to gleaning and food recovery organizations by U.S. region, and additional resources on a variety of issues associated with gleaning and food recovery practices.

Vermont Foodbank logo   Vermont Foodbank - Barre, VT 1-800-585-2265 

Vermont Gleaning Collective logo   Vermont Gleaning Collective – 802-888-4360


Detriments of food waste poster Trashing one egg wastes 55 gallons of water

Agency of Natural Resources
Department of Environmental Conservation
Waste Management and Prevention Division

Davis Building - 1st Floor
One National Life Drive
Montpelier, VT 05620-3704