Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition
University of California
Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition

Business/Institution Information

Click here to download our guide for businesses on reducing food loss and waste.

Why Donate?

Forty percent of food produced in the United States goes uneaten- that’s at least 62.5 million tons of wasted food every year. In California, we are wasting about 5.6 million tons of food every year. This accounts for edible food from farm to fork, meaning it includes the food that’s left on the farm, post harvest and packing, to food lost from manufacturers or processing, distribution, all the way to retail and food service, and at the household level as well. (Source:

California has passed legislation to promote organics reductions going to landfill. Diverting food waste from landfills not only conserves limited landfill space, but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. In landfills, organic materials, like food scraps and yard trimmings, are broken down by bacteria to produce methane. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is shown to have a warming potential of 21 times that of carbon dioxide, significantly contributing to global climate change.

Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling (AB 1826)

  • Requires businesses that generate specified amounts of organic waste to arrange for organic waste recycling services.

Short Lived Climate Pollutants Reduction Act (SB 1383)

  • Requires a 20% reduction of edible food waste by 2025
  • Requires a 40% reduction in methane levels by 2030

Is it legal to donate?

Yes!  Federal and state civil and criminal liability protections are in place for food donors and nonprofit organizations that receive and distribute food donations to those in need.

1. California Good Samaritan Act (AB 1219 2017)

  • Food can be donated to an individual or gleaning organization
  • Specific liability protection applies to the donation of food that is fit for consumption that has exceeded the labeled shelf life date
  • Authorizes permitted food donors to engage in direct donation

2. California Code Section 114433

“Criminal liability- No FOOD FACILITY that donates FOOD as permitted by Section 114432 shall be subjected to civil or criminal liability or penalty for violation of any LAWs, regulations, or ordinances regulating the labeling or packaging of the donated product or, with respect to any other LAWs, regulations, or ordinances, for a violation occurring after the time of donation.”

3. Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (1996)

  • Food must be donated to a nonprofit.
  • Food must meet all federal, state, and local quality and labeling requirements; if it does not, the food must be reconditioned to meet all requirements.
  • The receiving nonprofit organization must distribute it to needy individuals.
  • Needy individuals receiving the food may not pay for it, however, if one nonprofit donates food to another nonprofit for distribution, the Act allows the first nonprofit to charge the distributing nonprofit a nominal fee to cover handling and processing costs. 

What Do Dates on Products Mean?

Food date labels are an attempt to indicate quality not safety. In fact, there are no federal regulations for date labeling for products other than infant formula. 

  • A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale.
  • A "Best if Used By (or Before)" date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

Are There Tax Incentives?

Business donors are eligible for an enhanced tax deduction for donations that meet certain criteria.  Interested parties should consult with a tax professional for further information. 

Tax Deduction Criteria

  • The recipient food recovery organization or donee must be an IRC 501(c)(3) organization and a public charity or a private operating foundation.
  • The donee must give the donated food solely to the ill, the needy, or infants.
  • The donee may not use or transfer the food in exchange for money, other property, or services.
  • The donee must provide a written statement to donor stating that all requirements of IRC 170 (e)(3) have been met.
  • The donated food must be in compliance with the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and California Health and Safety Code (CHSC).

Here are some resources for further information: 

Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation:

Natural Resources Defense Council: and


UCCE Sonoma County: 133 Aviation Blvd Suite 109, Santa Rosa, CA 95403  Phone: 707.565.2621  Fax: 707.565.2623
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