Student-Powered Hunger Relief

Good Samaritan Food Donation Act

If you want to learn more about the legislation in place that keeps our Campus Kitchens safe from liability, read the information below.

Full Good Samaritan Food Donation Act Document Text here.

Q: What does the law do?

A:The law protects good faith food donors from civil and criminal liability, should the product later cause harm to its recipient. The Emerson Act gives uniform federal protection to donors who may cross state lines.

Q: What does it mean?

A: The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act promotes food recovery by limiting the liability of donors to instances of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. The Act further states that, absent of gross negligence or intentional misconduct, persons, gleaners, and nonprofit organizations shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging or condition of wholesome food or fit grocery products received as donations. It also establishes basic nationwide uniform definitions pertaining to donation and distribution of nutritious foods and will help ensure that donated foods meet all qualify and labeling standards of Federal, State, and local laws and regulations. Although the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act takes precedence over the various State Good Samaritan statutes, it may not entirely replace such statutes. As a Federal statute, the Emerson Act creates a uniform minimum level of protection from liability for donors and gleaners nationwide. However, State Good Samaritan statutes still may provide protection for donors and gleaners above and beyond that guaranteed in the Federal statute.

Q: What sort of food is protected?

A: The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (the “Emerson Act”) provides protection for food and grocery products that meet all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State and local laws and regulations even though the food may not be “readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.”

Food may include any “raw, cooked, processed, or prepared edible substance, ice, beverage, or ingredient” used or intended for use by humans. Grocery products can include nonfood products, including “disposable paper, or plastic products, household cleaning products, laundry detergent, cleaning product or miscellaneous household item.”

There are also provisions to deal with food and products that do not meet quality and labeling requirements of federal, state and local laws.

Q: Who is protected?

A: The national legislation protects food donors, including individuals, and nonprofit feeding programs who act in good faith. While exceptions are noted for gross negligence, the law states that these groups will not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the “nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product.” (See chart below on page 4)

Q: How does the law improve on the state laws already in existence?

A: The national legislation replaces all state laws, including those in the District of Columbia, the commonwealth of Puerto Rico and all U.S. territories and possessions. Under the national law, food donors need only seek protection under one law. This should save significant time and resources on the donor’s behalf and simplify the donation process.

Q: Will the legislation be repealed?

A: The national law has received widespread bi-partisan support in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both legislative bodies passed the bill by unanimous consent.  Furthermore, the Emerson Act moves the Good Samaritan Law from the National and Community Service Act of 1990 to the Childhood Nutrition Act of 1966. No challenges are expected.

Q: Where can I find more detailed information about this act?

A: Full text of the act can be found at the beginning of this page. You can also find more information here:



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