- The Alaska State Senate unanimously passed HB 186, a bill designed to increase food donation by decreasing liability concerns, on Jan. 24 as reported by KTVA. The House of Representatives, where the bill originated, unanimously passed it in April 2017.
- Building on the national Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, HB 186 declares that anyone donating food for distribution by a "food bank" or "charitable organization" is exempt from liability in the event of injury or death that was "not a result of the gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of the donor."
- The bill specifies that any donated item with "a date on the food indicating when the food is best eaten by or used by has expired" is exempt from liability. The definition of donors is also expanded to include delis, restaurants, hotels and stores.
The Emerson act has been in effect since 1996, and local food recovery organizations have been running for much longer than that, but liability concerns still remain a deterrent for many potential donors. An estimated 15% of Alaska residents live in food insecure households, making the issue even more pressing for state legislators. Now, final approval is just needed from Gov. Bill Walker.
If Walker does sign HB 186, he'll be following in the footsteps of West Coast counterpart Gov. Jerry Brown. Last fall, Brown signed the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act to expand liability protections and go further by also calling for standardized date label language. Similar legislation has been introduced at the federal level and food policy advocates are hoping to to make it part of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Without clarity, and affirmation of liability protection, edible food can often go to waste. National nonprofit ReFED recently estimated that grocery retailers could increase their revenues by billions with policies such as date label standardization, tighter inventory management and more robust relationships with local recovery organizations.
In more rural areas such as Alaska, the logistics of transporting perishable items long distances could be challenging, but clarifying that date labels aren't binding should still help boost the volume of non-perishable items being recovered.