The federal government and its contractors will be further encouraged to donate surplus meals to food banks and soup kitchen throughout the nation and Maine after legislation co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins was recently signed into law. Senator Collins is working with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the non-profit Rock and Wrap it Up to establish the program.

The combination of rising food prices, an increase in the number of people served at shelters, and a slowing of the overall economy has created a shortage at food banks and soup kitchens. According to Rock and Wrap It Up, on average 5 percent of food at events is left over and is thrown away. The Federal Food Donation Act (S. 2420) amends contracting rules to encourage federal agencies and certain contractors to donate surplus food to nonprofit organizations that aid hungry families in the U.S. The law also shields donors from lawsuits for donating wholesome food. Under previous law, the fear of lawsuits discouraged federal agencies and contractors from donating surplus food to soup kitchens and food banks.

Senator Collins said, “With one in six children in this country not sure where their next meal is coming from, we have an obligation to do everything we can to feed our nation’s hungry. I hear from food banks and shelters throughout Maine that they are extremely concerned about a decrease in food donations and the difficulty they are having in meeting the needs of communities in these difficult economic times. This law encourages the federal government and contractors to donate wholesome surplus food to help families in need. With the legislation now becoming law, I am working with GSA and Rock and Wrap it Up to quickly implement this program to make sure the hungry families receive the federal food donations.”

The bipartisan bill was authored by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). In addition to Senator Collins, it was cosponsored by Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), George Voinovich (R-OH), and Mike Crapo (R-ID). The bill was also endorsed by a number of food banks and shelters throughout the nation including Preble Street in Portland.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, of which Senator Collins is Ranking Member, approved the legislation in April, before the Senate’s passage in May. It passed the House of Representatives in early June.