Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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Harvesting for free distribution to the needy, or for donation to a nonprofit organization for ultimate distribution to the needy, an agricultural crop that has been donated by the owner.

Gleaning raises legal liability issues, especially with respect to the quality of the food donated and any harmful effects that may come from donated food. A group of statutes known as Good Samaritan laws are meant to encourage the donation of food and groceries to nonprofit charitable agencies by minimizing the number of legal actions against donors and distributors of foods.

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Prior to 1990, every state and the District of Columbia had some form of statutory protection from liability for charitable food donation and distribution. These statutes were exceptions to the COMMON LAW or statutory rule of STRICT LIABILITY for distributing food or any other defective product that causes injury. The statutes vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some provide liability only for gleaners' or donors' gross negligence or intentional acts, while others provide liability for mere NEGLIGENCE. Others limit liability if the donor reasonably inspects the donated food at the time the donor makes the donation and has no actual or constructive knowledge of any defective condition.

But the inconsistency of the existing state laws prompted gleaners and donors who volunteer time and resources to help feed hungry people to express concern that their charitable work put themselves at legal risk. In 1996 Congress passed federal legislation providing uniform protection to gleaners, citizens, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that act in GOOD FAITH to donate, recover, and distribute excess food.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (the Act), P.L. 104-210 (October 1, 1996), was named in honor of the late congressman who supported efforts to expand food donations to the poor and to protect those who make donations. It converted the Model Good Samaritan Food Donation Act to permanent law and incorporated it into section 22 of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-642, October 11, 1966). The Child Nutrition Act of 1966 was an anti-hunger initiative begun during the President LYNDON B. JOHNSON administration as part of its "War on Poverty" and has been amended numerous times.

Congress passed the act in late September 1996 and President BILL CLINTON signed the bill into law on October 1, 1996...

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