More Food for the Hungry, Less Food in Landfills

Jeff Klein

The fact that many businesses dispose of perfectly edible food when it could be efficiently redirected to feed hungry people is a sad reality. Why would anyone pay money to transport nourishing food to landfills instead of donating it to people in need?

In many cases, even when there is a strong desire to help, would-be Good Samaritans face legal, governmental and financial road blocks that make donating difficult if not impossible. The U.S. enacted Good Samaritan laws years ago to protect donors against legal liability connected with donating food, so long as the donated food meets the important standard of being fit for human consumption.

But, these laws are not universal. Only several other countries have laws that protect those who donate food for humanitarian purposes. We believe that these laws are crucial to unlocking the tightly connected problems of food waste and hunger.

The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) helps member food banks around the world source and rescue food. We do this through training and education, by making critical connections, and by sharing best practices. We also help food banks – including the new food bank in Panama – encourage their government to enact Good Samaritan laws to make food donation an appealing option.

Good Samaritan Act: The new “law of the land” in Panama

Banco de Alimentos Panama (Food Bank Panama) is an exciting story of success in many ways. In less than a year, a group of business people allied with the Catholic Church planned and opened the country’s first food bank. They also appealed to the government to enact Good Samaritan protection for food donors … and made that a reality as well.

How did they do this, and how did they make it happen in such a short amount of time? The food bank’s acting director, Jorge Luis Carbonell, is an intelligent, resourceful businessperson with incredible drive. Early in the food bank’s development stage, Jorge turned to GFN for advice on ways to advocate for the Good Samaritan law and its value from a food sourcing perspective.

Good Samaritan protection is not an easily-won legislation. But, Jorge and his team took the information and advice and literally ran with it! It was a group effort that took an incredible amount of dedication and passion. Importantly, Jorge and his colleagues built a coalition of believers across business, government and church. They were able to convince Panama’s National Assembly about the benefits of Good Samaritan protection, and it became law within several months after mobilizing this effort. 

The Good Samaritan law in Panama will not only protect donors, but also encourage, direct and regulate food donations and reduce unwarranted waste of food. This will help ensure a steady supply of food to the food bank to nourish people in vulnerable situations or extreme poverty.

Jorge reports that Banco de Alimentos Panama distributed 60,000 meals in January 2015, mainly due to the Good Samaritan Law that was passed in early December 2014.

We can’t wait to see what Food Bank Panama will accomplish in 2015. And, we know that other food banks in the network will be able to learn from their success.

Learn more about how GFN helps food banks source more food to feed hungry people.