Report reveals need to prioritize food donations – Food Tank

A recent report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found that federal and state policies affecting food bank donations fail to prioritize nutritious food donations over unhealthy donations.

The report found that of 42 federal and 253 state laws, regulations and administrative decisions related to the Charitable Food System (CFS), only 43, or 14.6 percent, address the nutritional quality of food donations.

“With 60 million people accessing CFS in 2020, the public health implications of not providing nutritious food to people transitioning to the system are massive and important to address,” says Emily Friedman, CSPI Legal Fellow and co-author of the report. food tank.

In the United States, food banks are serving 55 percent more people than they were before the pandemic, according to Feeding America. The CSPI report aims to understand how federal and state governments can make better use of public policy to provide more nutritious foods and reduce unhealthy donations to food banks.

CSPI researchers collaborated with the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to search legal databases on state and federal public policies affecting food donation. The researchers sorted and analyzed relevant policies into 10 categories: liability protections, date marking, government programs, donations across schools, wild game donations, tax incentives, grant programs, food safety, policies that allow the donation of certain foods, and bans on organic waste. Of the 295 documents, liability protection policies make up the majority, at 23.2 percent of the total, followed by date designation at 14.6 percent.

The researchers also interviewed food bank executives, food vending executives, and CFS stakeholders to understand attitudes and perceptions about donating nutritious food. Most respondents cite food safety concerns as a barrier to donation, emphasizing that logistical concerns, rather than concerns about appropriate food safety regulatory guidelines, are one of the biggest challenges. However, other interviewees expressed that more food safety regulatory guidance could promote donations, particularly donations of nutritious and perishable food.

Surveys show that CFS clients prefer fruits, vegetables, and protein to soda, candy, and snack foods. For example, Feeding America’s Hunger in America National Report found that 55 percent of CFS recipients identified fresh fruit and vegetables as the most desirable item they did not receive.

According to a CSPI report, one of the main barriers to improving the nutritional quality of donations is the lack of incentives to prioritize healthy foods. For example, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food distribution programs, which provide CFS with a large portion of food, lack official feeding guidelines.

“The USDA has steadfastly tried to align the nutritional quality of the foods provided by these programs with Dietary Guidelines for Americans and nutrition quality has improved, but there are still gaps,” Friedman told Food Tank. “The Commodity Supplementary Food Program does not include any fresh produce – it can be closed if the USDA adds official nutrition guidelines.”

The report proposes three policy reforms. First, the researchers suggest enhancing the nutritional quality of the USDA’s food distribution programs, which include the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and the Food Distribution on Indian Reservations Program (FDPIR).

The researchers also found that introducing or strengthening state farm-to-food bank programs have the potential to secure long-term access to nutritious foods. A farm food bank describes the movement of most fruits and vegetables, either through donation or purchase, directly from farmers to CFS.

According to the report, implementing an additional statewide ban on organic waste may help encourage nutritious food donations. While current organic waste bans focus on prohibiting food waste from being buried by producers on a specific tonnage, no ban prioritizes food donation. The report suggests that the new ban should explicitly include the donation of edible food as an option under the law.

Friedman hopes the report’s recommendations will highlight the problems of unhealthy food donations and enhance opportunities for change. “We hope the report will inspire new action at the federal, state, and even local levels and reinforce the good work that other groups are doing in the areas of anti-hunger and food and nutrition policy to improve the charitable food system,” Friedman tells Food Tank.

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Image courtesy of Aaron Doucet, Unsplash

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