May 27, 2018 | ° F

Act lets dining halls give food without risk

Amendments to the N.J. Food Bank Good Samaritan Act helps cities near universities deal with poverty

New legislation will allow New Jersey universities to donate food to charitable organizations without fear of lawsuit.

New Jersey’s “Food Bank Good Samaritan Act” of 1982 protects people who donate to food banks from liability, but vague language in the original bill does not specify that universities and colleges would be protected as well, said Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, D-17.

Chivukula said he forwarded an amendment to fix this problem, which Gov. Chris Christie signed last December.

Chivukula said revising the current bill would provide more opportunities for institutions to donate unused food to charitable organizations because poverty levels in New Jersey are rising and Superstorm Sandy left thousands of people homeless.

“We need to come up with ideas to offset [the problems],” he said.

When a University student called Chivukula asking for clarification on the bill’s language, Chivukula became interested in pushing for an amendment, said Ryan Lemanski, director of constituent affairs for the assemblyman.

After looking at the original bill, they were unable to answer with certainty whether colleges would be sued for donating unused food and became determined to change the bill’s language, Lemanski said.

“The amendment only now adds university dining services to the existing law,” Lemanski said.

Lemanski said the amendment would create publicity for the bill so that universities’ dining services know it is an open option. Adjusting the bill’s language will also give incentive to institutions previously hesitant to donate.

“It’s a chance for the 1982 law to be revisited,” Lemanski said.

Chivukula said he has wanted to improve the quality of life in New Jersey for a long time. When looking at the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, he said he saw people throwing away food that could have been donated.

“I’ve always had a question—what happens to all the food that’s leftover?” he said.

Chivukula said the University’s location allows cities such as New Brunswick and North Brunswick to benefit from the amendment.

But the amendment does not outline how universities should implement a donation plan — instead it is left open for the universities to set up procedures, Lemanski said.

“It basically removes a road block,” he said.

The University’s Dining Services purchases approximately $22 million in food annually for more than 4.5 million meals served in its dining halls. But efficiencies in purchasing and delivery allow less food product to be thrown away, said E.J. Miranda, director of the University’s Media Relations.

“There is, in fact, very little ‘unused food’ from Rutgers dining halls,” Miranda said.

Food waste from the dining halls is recycled into animal feed, he said.

“Currently, no secondary use facility has requested prepared leftover foods from Rutgers Dining Services,” he said.

Miranda said University dining halls reach out to Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen prior to closing for traditional shutdown periods such as spring and winter breaks to offer any available produce, but there are restrictions.

The University cannot donate foods handled by students in self-service lines and featured on future dining hall menus, he said. Dairy-based foods, eggs, deli meats and protein salads containing meat or eggs are also not donated.

Miranda said cooked food entrées and items not placed out for self-service may be offered for donation if they meet food safety temperature control requirements. These food products are separately packaged, labeled and frozen before donation.

The end user or preparation facility must reheat donated food quickly to meet sanitary code requirements as well, he said.

By Hannah Schroer

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