How It Works

IMG_20170627_143241_545Click here for our Food Donation Guidelines

We work with area businesses to identify food that would otherwise be thrown away, which can be diverted from the dumpster (or compost bin). Often this is fresh produce, which may be damaged or blemished, prepared food such as steamer trays of catered leftovers, or day-old baked goods.

The grocery stores we work with have a designated location for putting this produce (whether it is our bin or a sorting system they already had in place). Most of the time, these are large plastic bins that are strategically located, typically, between the produce department and the trash. This way, it is actually less work for store employees to save food than to throw it away.

Once per week, 2-3 of our volunteers drive or bike to the grocery store, load the food into a clean empty bin, and haul it directly to an organization that is scheduled to receive it.

The food is typically used within 24-48 hours. We currently provide food to community centers in high-need areas and shelters that serve the homeless and individuals in transitional housing.


We are sometimes asked about liability issues surrounding food donations. In order to thoroughly answer this question, the volunteer legal research team at Boulder Food Rescue put together a brief (but exhaustive) law review on the topic:

A federal law exists which protects donors of food from liability: the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Passed in 1996, this law states that an individual or company “shall 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 donate[d] in good faith to a nonprofit organization for ultimate distribution to needy individuals” except in cases of “gross negligence or intentional misconduct” [1]. The Bill Emerson Act hasn’t been tested in court yet, i.e., there isn’t relevant case law in any state. However, it is a broadly written federal bill and offers strong protection for good faith donors.

There are several good summaries online about the bill & its implications:

There is also a Minnesota state law pertaining to food donation, 604A.10 LIABILITY OF FOOD DONORS, which offers more explicit, but narrower protection for food donors [2]. It states:

A food bank or nonprofit charitable organization that in good faith collects or receives and distributes to the elderly or needy, at no charge, food that is fit for human consumption at the time it is distributed, is not liable for any injury, including but not limited to injury resulting from the ingesting of the food, unless the injury is caused by the gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of the food bank or nonprofit charitable organization.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act offers broader protection from liability, and thus it would preempt the Minnesota state law (see [3]).



[1] Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Pub. L. No. 104-210, 110 Stat. 3011 (1996)
[2] 2015 Minnesota State Statutes. Liability of food donors.
[3] Preemptive effect of the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act: Memorandum for James S. Gilliland, General Counsel, Department of Agriculture. March 10, 1997.

TCFJ “How it Works” was adapted from Boulder Food Rescue

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