Food recovery is a more sophisticated way of saying “food recycling”, making use of unwanted or unused food.
The most common methods of food recovery [pdf] are field gleaning, perishable food rescue or salvage (from wholesale and retail food sellers), food rescue (for prepared foods) and nonperishable food collection (food with long shelf lives). Some of these tactics are familiar to Food Not Bombs workers, food shelf volunteers or dumpster divers.
What you may not know is that under President Clinton, some United States Department of Agriculture agencies (Rural Development, the Farm Service Agency, and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service) and AmeriCorps created a Summer of Gleaning project working with food recovery groups in twenty-two states to help recover food that would have otherwise been thrown away.
They were aided in this program by the passage in 1996 of the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act which creates a federal-level protection from liability for accidental damages for people and non-profits who donate food in good faith to help feed the needy.
A person or gleaner shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product that the person or gleaner donates in good faith to a nonprofit organization for ultimate distribution to needy individuals.
The USDA created a Citizen’s Guide to Food Recovery which includes a handy state food recovery resource directory as well as a list of state food recovery law citations (sadly unhyperlinked). Other government agencies have also published information on food recovery
- The EPA even got into the act, dealing with the related issue of reducing food waste, mainly via composting and food bank donations.
- The USDA created a Best Practices Manual For Food Recovery and Gleaning in the National School Lunch Program
- The FDA created a list of links to resources for Food Emergency and Salvage Information in the case of a natural or man-made disaster situation.
- The USDA Economic Research Service published the results of their research on food recovery and farmer’s markets in Increasing Food Recovery From Farmers’ Markets: A Preliminary Analysis
- The Department of Transportation joined with the USDA and private sector organizations to try to address the logisitcal issues involved in transporting available food to the people who need it. It’s unclear what the results of this program initiative were.
Hungry and want to talk to the government about it? Their number is 1-800-GLEAN-IT
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