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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.

 if appropriate, feed animals food that is not suitable for people." The final, least preferred, section says "Keep scraps out of the trash by composting or anaerobically digesting food waste."

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. 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


Image of a poster with the following stats about food waste in the US: 40% of all food produced;133 billion pounds wasted per year; $161 billion in uneaten food at stores, restaurants, and homes annually, which is $1,500 for a family of four; 20% of landfill weight--the single largest municipal waste source; produces methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide; provides opportunities: diverting 15% of the food that currently goes to waste would be enough to cut the number of food insecure Americans in half;  food waste can be composted into sustainable soil additives or be used to generate electricity; encouraging institutions to purchase "ugly" produce would help farmers find new markets for products that currently go to waste  Poster with a photo of an egg stamped with the words "best if used." Trashing one egg wastes 55 gallons of water