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Rep. Marcia Fudge introduces legislation to ease food donations

WASHINGTON, D. C. - If you don't want to eat those peas, Rep. Marcia Fudge wants to make it easier for a hungry person to eat them.
On Tuesday, the Warrensville Heights Democrat introduced legislation to address liability worries that keep food manufacturers, retailers and restaurants from donating surplus food to the needy.
The bipartisan bill she introduced with three other Congress members would clarify and expand the liability protections given to food donors by a 1996 law meant to facilitate food donations to the hungry.
Her "Food Donation Act of 2017" aims to address issues brought to the House Agriculture Committee's attention by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, which  delivered testimony last year that said that 40 percent of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten, resulting in 62.5 million tons of wasted food each year.
"It has been estimated that redistributing just 30 percent of all the food lost in the United States could feed every food insecure American their total diet," the clinic's director, Emily Broad Leib, told the committee. "Despite several compelling policies, current laws still perpetuate barriers to food conservation and recovery."
Fudge's bill would extend liability protections to donations made directly to needy individuals, instead of limiting protections to food provided to social service agencies. It would also allow donation of food that's been mislabeled in ways that don't affect safety, and permit donations of edible foods like breakfast cereal that's past its "sell by" date for freshness, but is still safe to eat.
Fudge - a member of the House Agriculture Committee's nutrition subcommittee -  says 16.1 percent of Ohio residents aren't always able to acquire enough food, and the state ranks sixth nationwide in food insecurity.
"Food insecurity is an urgent problem in our nation, but there are businesses and organizations trying to help," said a statement from Fudge. "The Food Donation Act supports them by increasing liability protections and creating new ways to donate while eliminating food waste. This bill goes a long way in helping to feed families in need."