Food Donation and Food Safety: Challenges, Current Practices, and the Road Ahead


Millions of pounds of food are donated annually from grocery stores, restaurants, and other sources through thousands of food assistance agencies. Few local health departments have both the legal authority and resources to assure food safety in this highly decentralized network. A number of communities are using innovative public–private partnerships to improve donated food safety even in the absence of legal authority or significant new resources. These approaches begin with an understanding of the local food donation network, then progress to finding opportunities to create benefits for network members and seeking food safety improvements from network members.

Local health department leadership is needed to improve food donation safety programs. This involvement could include coordinating the variety of privately-based food safety inspections currently taking place and exploring funding opportunities through the tax savings enjoyed by food donors. This special report provides an overview of food donation networks and the food safety challenges common to many communities. It then explains some of the innovative programs being implemented in communities. Finally, we highlight opportunities for developing comprehensive food donation safety programs in the absence of significant new resources or legal authority.


Speaker / Author: 
Thomas J. Bierma, MBA, PhD, Department of Health Sciences, Illinois State University
Guang Jin, ScD, PE, Department of Health Sciences, Illinois State University
Christy N. Bazan, MPH, LEHP, MCHES, Department of Health Sciences, Illinois State University
Month Year: 
June 2019
Page #: 
Publication Month: 
June 2019
EH Topics: