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Division of Marketing and Development
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Mayo Building, M-9
407 South Calhoun Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800
(850) 487-8000

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Charles H. Bronson, Commissioner

Food Recovery Program

What is Food Recovery?

The Food Recovery Program is a coordinated effort involving the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida farmers, wholesalers, retailers, community action agencies and other food relief agencies. It supplements Federal food assistance as well as other non-perishable donated goods by making better use of a food source that already exists. The program is committed to addressing the issue of hunger.

The purpose is forthright: Get surplus or unmarketable food to those in need. The technique is direct: Gather food that has been deemed unmerchantable and distribute it to the needy. The goal is noble: To end hunger in America.

The Four Most Common Methods of Food Recovery

Field Gleaning

The collection of crops from farmers’ fields that have already been mechanically harvested or fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. Contact The Society of St. Andrews at the web link below for information regarding gleaning activities in your area.

Perishable Food Rescue or Salvage

The collection of perishable produce from growers, producers, wholesale and retail sources. Farm Share, Inc., a food recovery organization, recovers surplus or unmerchantable fresh produce and makes it available for distribution to the needy. Other food banks throughout the state are also involved in food recovery efforts. Learn more about their food recovery programs by contacting them directly through the web links listed below.

Food Rescue

The collection of prepared foods from the food service industry. Soup kitchens, shelters and other feeding sites are often the primary recipients of prepared foods.

Nonperishable Food Collection

The collection of processed (canned and packaged) foods with long shelf lives. Food banks, food pantries and other emergency feeding organizations obtain and distribute these food items to the needy.

How Can You Help?

When foods or produce are rejected at the producer, wholesale and retail levels, the Food Recovery Program is an excellent alternative to dumping in the local landfill. The continued success of the Food Recovery Program is dependent upon everyone. The past successes of the program are indicative of what a united front can accomplish. Private businesses and non-profit organizations have banded together to provide assistance to the less fortunate, while exemplifying conscientious responsibility and resourcefulness.

The operation of the Food Recovery Program is three-fold:

-- Locate unsold or unmerchantable food and fresh produce.
-- Coordinate its transportation and storage.
-- Distribute it to the needy.

There are various ways to get involved in the fight against hunger and demonstrate commitment to the community.

Food Service Professionals

-- Organize a food drive and donate food to a local food bank or pantry.
-- Donate excess prepared food from restaurants, school cafeterias or catered events.
-- Assist organizations in training their volunteers in safe food-handling practices.

Nonprofit Organizations

-- Work independently or with existing organizations to assist on-going food recovery efforts.
-- Support or develop a community or regional coalition against hunger.
-- Develop a community financial fund to fight hunger.
-- Plan tours of food recovery facilities or arrange for knowledgeable speakers to increase community awareness of hunger and poverty problems, and what people are doing to address them.

Groups and Individual Citizens

-- Volunteer at the food recovery program closest to you.
-- Attend food safety training sessions so you are better prepared to volunteer in a soup kitchen or shelter.
-- Suggest that organizations you belong to or businesses you work for sponsor food recovery programs.
-- Join or form a community walk/run to benefit a food recovery program.

Businesses and Corporations

-- Encourage, recognize and reward employees and other individuals for volunteer service to the community. Increase employee awareness of local hunger and provide training to make employees more useful volunteers.
-- Sponsor radio and television air time for community organizations that address hunger.
-- Donate excess prepared and processed food from the employee cafeteria or from special events to local food recovery programs.
-- Donate transportation, maintenance work, or computer service.
-- Prepare legal information on donor considerations such as “Good Samaritan” laws and food safety and quality.

What are the Legal Issues?

The Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act provides uniform national protection to those that act in good faith to donate, recover and distribute excess food. Likewise, Florida has enacted legislation that specifically addresses the liability for canned or perishable food distributed free of charge. Pursuant to s. 768.136(2) and (3), Florida Statutes:

(2) “A good faith donor or gleaner of any canned or perishable food, apparently fit for human consumption, to a bona fide charitable or nonprofit organization for free distribution shall not be subject to criminal penalty or civil damages arising from the condition of the food, unless an injury is caused by the gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of the donor or gleaner.”

(3) “A bona fide charitable or nonprofit organization, or any representative or volunteer acting on behalf of such organization or an uncompensated person acting in a philanthropic manner providing services similar to those of such an organization, which accepts, collects, transports, or distributes any canned or perishable food, apparently fit for human consumption, from a good faith donor or gleaner for free distribution shall not be subject to criminal penalty or civil damages arising from the condition of the food, unless an injury is caused by the gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of an agent of the charitable or nonprofit organization.”

Food Banks, Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens

Recovered foods as well as other donated foods are distributed to the needy through the local emergency feeding organizations:

Food banks provide food to other organizations like food pantries, soup kitchens, hunger relief centers, or other food or feeding centers. Usually, food banks do not distribute food directly to individuals.

Food pantries distribute food to low-income and unemployed households to take home for home consumption.

Soup kitchens provide meals to the needy and the homeless on a regular basis.

To locate a food pantry, soup kitchen or other emergency feeding organization in your area, contact the state-contracted Recipient Agency serving your county by going to “Locate Food Banks by County for Info on Perishable and Non-perishable Food Collection” listed below.

Related Topics of Interest

Locate Food Banks by County for Info on Perishable and Non-perishable Food Collection

Links to Related Web Sites

Visit the Farm Share Web Site
Visit the Society of St. Andrew End Hunger Web Site
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