NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Five Billion Pounds of Wasted Food Could Feed the Hungry

November 27, 2001

Americans waste up to 96 billion pounds of food every year according to the Agriculture Department. America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest domestic hunger network, says it would take only about five billion pounds to eliminate hunger in America. Unfortunately, the tax code makes it cheaper for us to throw food away than to donate it.

  • For example, if the apple processor Mott's donated a truckload of apples, it would qualify for a "special rule tax deduction."
  • But if a farmer wanted to donate a truckload of his apples, he wouldn't qualify.
  • Thus the deduction leaves out the most practical source of aid for most kitchens, pantries and shelters: local farmers, ranchers, small businessmen and restaurateurs.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) has introduced legislation that would rectify the double standard. But even big corporations have problems. Many find the complicated deduction formulas hardly make it worth their while. Lucky Stores had to fight the IRS when it went after the grocery chain, claiming it wasn't entitled to take a deduction for donated food based on market value.

President Bush has argued for revamping the tax code to facilitate volunteer efforts, which would seem to bolster anti-hunger campaigns. According to America's Second Harvest's just-released Hunger in America 2001 report:

  • More than three-quarters of the food pantries and almost as many of the soup kitchens are run by churches, synagogues and mosques.
  • The ratio of volunteers to paid staff is about eight to one at food pantries and 16 to one at soup kitchens.

Source: Editorial, "Talking Turkey," Wall Street Journal, November 23, 2001.


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