(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Adam Taliaferro, Eric Houghtaling and Bob Andrzejczak that would make it easier for schools to donate excess and unused food , and help reduce food waste received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
“It is almost sinful to waste food that could help feed people in need,” said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Providing a how-to guide to schools on how to donate excess food could help increase supply for food banks. This not only helps reduce food waste, but helps provide for people who depend on food assistance programs to feed themselves and their families.”
“Schools may already be interested in doing this, but may not know how or may be worried about legalities,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “It would be a wonderful lesson to students about civic-mindedness and, more importantly, it would help support food assistance organizations that operate in communities where the demand often surpasses supply.”
“Food pantries provide an honorable and important service and deserve our support,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “If we make it easier to donate food, I’m certain our school districts and colleges and universities will step up to the plate, and support the food banks and charities in the state that are so instrumental to the survival of our less fortunate residents.”
The bill (A-3056) would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in consultation with other appropriate state agencies, to establish voluntary guidelines for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education to reduce, recover and recycle food waste.
These guidelines would include, but not be limited to: (1) information on food waste, and the benefits of reducing, recovering and recycling food waste; (2) recommendations on how schools may incorporate this information into their curricula, and create programs and activities for the reduction, recovery and recycling of food waste; (3) recommendations for how schools can reduce the volume of surplus food they generate; (4) guidance on how schools can create share tables in their cafeterias; (5) information on cost-effective, safe, and sanitary means by which schools may donate excess, unused, and edible food to nonprofit organizations that distribute food to needy individuals; and (6) information on how schools can recycle their food waste.
The DEP, the Department of Education, and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education would be required to post the guidelines on their websites.
The bill would also amend the “Food Bank Good Samaritan Act” to extend legal immunity to public and nonpublic schools that donate food that appears to be fit for human consumption at the time it is donated to a nonprofit organization. Institutions of higher education already receive such immunity under the act.
The bill was approved 78-0 by the Assembly, and 37-0 by the Senate in May.