Did you know that most of the surplus food from your trade shows, conferences and events can be donated to food banks—with no liability to either your company or the food service establishment? The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton in October of 1996, protects food donors from civil and criminal liability at national and state levels. Yet many event marketers, hotels and restaurants don’t know that they’re covered.
Julie Nack Locke, CMP, manager-global accounts at HelmsBriscoe in Dover, MA, donates food from her events to the Second Helping program of the Greater Boston Food Bank which, when called ahead, provides donor kitchens with the appropriate food storage containers and picks up the food. Many hotels and event venues are not equipped to donate leftover food so she advises event managers to be explicit in their catering contracts about who will make the arrangements and who will provide the supplies and labor for loading the food.
Despite how easy it is to donate, Locke continues to come up against hotels and other establishments—including leading national chains—that tell her they cannot donate food because of liability. “It’s heartbreaking when so many people out there need that food,” she says. Event organizers can affect change by pushing their hotel and venue partners to learn about the Act.
For those more interested in the bottom line than the good deed, Locke says donating surplus food makes good business sense, too. Food donation can help offset the losses associated with food and beverage minimums and attrition penalties. “Rather than forfeit the food, you can purchase the minimums and donate the food to a local food bank, and your company can take the deduction,” Locke says.
Look for food donation programs in your local area through Feeding America, formerly called America’s Second Harvest, which has a food bank locator on its home page: feedingamerica.org.