Celebrating the anniversary of
Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was created to encourage food donation to nonprofit organizations by minimizing liability. Signed into United States law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, this law, named after Representative Bill Emerson (who encouraged the proposal but died before it was passed), makes it easier to donate 'apparently wholesome food' by excluding donor liability except in cases of gross negligence. See the law text.

After the initial publicity around the bill passing into law, the protections provided in the bill were widely forgotten and its benefits to businesses have been underutilized. According to a study by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance in 2013, 54% of businesses in the retail and whole sale sector expressed that liability is a barrier to donating. However, according to the Legal Guide to the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, by the University of Arkansas School of Law, “…a thorough search of filings and reported decisions did not turn up a single case that involved food donation-related liability or any attempts to get around the protections offered by the Bill Emerson Act. Additionally, several leading food recovery experts and anti-hunger advocates report that they are unaware of any such actual or threatened lawsuits.” 

2018 EMIES Awards

In continued celebration of the Good Samaritan Act, San Diego Food System Alliance was honored to recognize businesses, organizations, and institutions with exemplary practices around prevention/ source reduction, food recovery and donation, feeding people, feeding animals, and composting/ recycling.

Awardees were recognized during the Food Waste Solutions Summit IV in San Diego at the Jacobs Center on September 25, 2018. 

2018 EMIES  - Winners 

GNF Novartis

Demonstrates  and shares best practice for upstream food waste reduction, auditing production and engaging staff, excess food donation, and composting. Landfill diversion is 78%; up from 4.4% in 2010.

Sharp HealthCare

Collaboration as an innovator and early adopter with upstream "unusual but usable" procurement, soup stock program, organic gardens, animal feed and composting. 18,000 lbs. of good food donated in 2017.

San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

Programs depth and breadth. Green certified 38 concessionaires. Increased food donation six-fold. Pre- and post-consumer food waste composting. Education and signage. Saved over $9000 in landfill fees.

Escondido Union School District

Plate waste study & Smarter Lunchroom program. Designed four compartment trays to reduce plate waste. Zero waste goal. "Healthy Sustainable Living, Every Day Counts!"  student education campaign.-

BrightSide Produce

“Anchor Institution” collaboration, healthful produce at University pricing for 13 small to medium grocery stores in National City. Assists with pricing, displays, sales, signage, and nutrition education.


Four to seven weekly gleaning events, distributing 11,000 servings/week. Diverse and scalable volunteer opportunities By the end of this calendar year will have logged one million pounds of rescued produce.

Vista Unified School District Child Nutrition Services

Integrated food waste curriculum into 6th grade science standards. Tracked & measured food waste in café, students created posters, set up and monitored share cooler in cafeteria, “alumni” outreach.

Food Recovery Network at UCSD

Fresh and Full Food Transportation program, with AB54 funding, secured vehicle and hired student drivers. Hot meals for students who self-identify as food insecure. 6000 lbs. food recovered last year.

Public Health Alliance of Southern California

CA Food Waste Prevention Week collaboration and promotion guide. DEH Directors across state trained in safe food donation. Nutrition education and SNAP education to include food waste prevention.

EMIES  - Distinguished Programs

Culinart Group at Francis Parker School uses menu control, smaller portion sizes, ok to ask for more.

Solana Center for Environmental Innovation for education/recycling in communities across the region.

San Diego Rescue Mission provides shelter for over 200, prepares donated/recovered pre-school meals.

Café Bon Apetit buys imperfect produce, Food Recovery Network Verified, Chefs to End Hunger partner.

Sprouts North Park donated 180,000 lbs. food in 2017, 140,000 lbs. produce, with San Diego Food Bank

UC San Diego Health usesupstream” prevention strategies, 40% decrease in organic waste to landfill.

LeanPath provides innovation, thought leadership. Developing technologies and sharing best practice.

Aztec Shops are the first university markets in the nation to be Green Restaurant Certified.


EMIES  - Emerging Programs

Harvest CROPS empowering residents/gleaners, over 320,000 lbs. fruits and vegetables since inception.

Resource Management Group provides bins, user education for food waste reduction & recycling.

California State University San Marcos educational outreach, composting tours, Cougar Pantry access.

EMIES – Visionary Staff Leadership

Ana Carvalho, City of San Diego

Ana has been providing leadership and guidance to food production facilities across the City of San Diego. She has been an active member in the Food Recovery Working Group of the San Diego Food System Alliance, and has participated in regional and national efforts to share best practice and reduce the impacts of wasted food. Ana’s visionary leadership has helped many organizations and the City of San Diego to build strong programs in support of their waste reduction and healthy climate goals.

Jennifer Winfrey, County of San Diego

Jen has been a strong and informed advocate for food waste reduction and donation at the County of San Diego. She has served on the steering group leading the Food Recovery Working Group of the San Diego Food System Alliance. Jen’s visionary leadership has inspired students and residents across unincorporated San Diego County to develop innovative strategies to share messaging, to source reduce food waste, to increase donation, to provide animal feed, and to compost in our rural areas.



2017 EMIES Unwasted Food Award Winners

Bradford Airport Logistics  A key partner to the success of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s Food Recovery Program since 2013.

  • Donation: Collects edible food from airport concessionaires during regular food deliveries and transports the donated food to the airport’s USO Facility with their fleet of refrigerated trucks that run on biofuel. The food is available to the 11,000 active duty service members and their families who travel through San Diego's airport each month. Prior to the start of the closed-loop donations program to the USO in 2016. Bradford has also donated food to the San Diego Rescue Mission.

City of Chula Vista  Offers extensive public education on food waste prevention, donation, and diversion.

  • Prevention: Provided food waste prevention outreach at the 2017 South Bay Earth Day festival.

  • Donation: Held a series of food insecurity workshops in 2016 that included food waste recovery and donation efforts. Additional workshops in 2017 continue to advance community participation and programs to increase food recovery in the South Bay region.

  • Diversion: Diverted over 240 tons of food waste from landfills through a 4 year pilot curbside food waste collection program for businesses and residents. Offers residents free compost education through backyard composting workshops, master composter trainings, and a reduced cost compost bin program.

Feeding San Diego  Successfully piloted the FoodShare program at 190 local Starbucks locations, a program that Starbucks and Feeding America National Office is expanding nationally. Provided 21.2 million meals last year through 225 distribution partners.

  • Donation/Food Distribution: Feeding San Diego partner agencies use refrigerated vans to collect boxed meals, sandwiches, salads, yogurt and baked goods from Starbucks stores seven days a week, year round. In the past year, 160 tons of edible ready-to-eat food (270,000 meals) have been rescued from local stores.

Point Loma Nazarene University  Manages pre and post-consumer food waste for donation or diversion. Offers students and staff food waste education through events, programs and volunteer opportunities.

  • Prevention: Discontinued the use of cafeteria trays in 2010 which reduced food waste by nearly 5 tons each month. Cafeteria staff monitor plate waste to advise menu planning and production. Smaller portions are available upon request.

  • Donation: Since Fall 2015, the student led food recovery network, working with Sodexo staff, has donated 4 tons of food to the San Diego Rescue Mission.

  • Diversion: Diverted 99 tons of plate waste and food scraps from landfills for composting at the Miramar Greenery in 2016. Food waste collection bins are available in dorm kitchens and department lounges. The collected materials are composted onsite in the campus compost pile or vermiculture boxes.

Ramona Unified School District  Developed a closed loop program involving their school’s culinary garden, food waste reduction, donations to a local food pantry, and diversion through animal feed and composting. 

  • Prevention: Used a waste audit and tracking of food waste to develop more efficient purchasing and preparation practices as well as menu and portion planning. Moved to more on-demand food preparation.

  • Donation: Donated 7.2 tons of edible food to The Ramona Food and Clothes Closet since 2014. Donates surplus food during school breaks.

  • Diversion: Food waste is composted at an on-site Earth Tub and diverted to animal feed. Nearly 4 tons of vegetative and bakery food scraps have been fed to animals housed at the school for their agricultural education program. An additional 4.5 tons have been composted on-site, with the finished compost being used in the school garden.

San Diego Rescue Mission Rescued 1,206 tons of food for distribution and provided 399,647 meals to people in need in the past 12 months.

  • Prevention: Saved $7 million through food waste prevention methods including a food waste audit and improved supply chain and production efficiencies.

  • Donation: Two-hundred partner agencies collect rescued food in refrigerated trucks from over 100 grocery stores, restaurants, caterers, universities, hotels and hospitals contribute to this effort.

  • Food Distribution: Prepares and serves more than 1,090 meals each day that are prepared with rescued/donated food.

San Diego Unified School District  A joint effort between Food & Nutrition Services and the Recycling Office resulted in food waste reduction and food donations at 171 schools. 

  • Prevention: Reduced salad bar food waste by 66% by switching to shallow pans and promoting the concept of leaving trays “tastefully empty” to minimize leftover food after the final meal period. The District estimates cost savings for food waste reduction at $220,000.

  • Donation: Established the “Love Food Not Waste” program in 2016 to increase food donation. Un-served food is refrigerated at the individual school kitchens, then transported back to a production kitchen. Feeding San Diego agency partners collect the food from 19 production kitchens. Approximately 59 tons of food (98,300 meals) was rescued in the 16/17 school year.

  • Diversion: Since 2015, one elementary school has sent 14.7 tons of food scraps and plate waste for composting at the Miramar Greenery each year.

Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub and Whet Noodle  Executive Chef Davin Waite and partner/owner Jessica Waite work to incorporate the principles of sustainability and zero waste into their menus and operations.

  • Prevention: Maximizes food resources through portion sizes, menu planning, and utilizing uncommonly served portions of fish and other food, including their banana peel tacos. The banana peels are sourced from a nearby smoothie shop and the peels make a savory sweet alternative to tofu or other protein products. Promoted their philosophy of healthy and sustainable food to Oceanside residents through 3 farm-to-fork-to-soil educational programs, and over 25 public presentations and panels on zero waste, sustainability and local food systems in the past year.

  • Donation: Participates in Specialty Produce’s Waste Not San Diego program which collects edible food from restaurants during the regular delivery of their produce. The donated food is distributed to San Diego Food Bank’s agency partners.

  • Diversion: Participated in the City of Oceanside’s 2016 Commercial Food Waste composting pilot.

Unwasted Food: Distinguished Programs

Crowne Plaza San Diego  Achieved a 90% overall reduction in food waste through prevention, donation, and diversion in addition to their extensive recycling and source reduction program. Saves over $1,200 each year through efficiencies and involving staff in food waste prevention programs. Donation: Donated unserved food from banquets to Father Joe’s since 2009. Diversion: Diverted 155 tons from landfills in 2017 by sending food waste to Miramar Greenery for composting.

Cuyamaca College  (Child Development Center & East County Intergenerational Garden): Incorporates food waste into their intergeneration learning program, involving preschool children, college students, staff and senior citizen volunteers into their food waste programs. Prevention: Conducted a food waste audit that led to menu and portion size changes. Donation: The campus’ Coyote Café donates unsold food. Diversion: Since June 2015, 3 tons of plate waste from the Child Development Center have composted onsite at the Intergenerational Garden.  A paid intern manages the composting program. 

Flagship Facility Services  A key partner to the success of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s Food Scrap collection program since 2013. Diversion:  Collected 340 tons of non-edible food scraps from 40 airport food service sites, the USO Facility, and 3 prep kitchens in 2016. Ensures that food scraps are free from contamination during their thrice daily collections from kitchens throughout the airport. Collected food scraps are composted at Miramar Greenery.  

Heaven's Windows  Acts as a regional food distribution site in the East County in addition to their array of food assistance programs. Donation:  Stores food from Senior Gleaners and the San Diego Food Bank in their Spring Valley warehouse, allowing east county food pantries to travel fewer miles to collect their distribution. Food distribution: Provides food assistance to children, families, seniors, refugees, homeless people, and anyone in need of help.

San Diego Convention Center  All staff who handle food are trained in food donation and diversion. Prevention: Saved approximately $6,500 and prevented 2,000 tons of food waste through increased efficiencies in the past year. Donation:  Donated more than 91 tons of food to the San Diego Rescue Mission and their partners since 2006. Diversion: Diverted 165 tons from landfills in the past year by sending food waste to Miramar Greenery for composting. Sink garbage disposal systems were removed in favor of composting.

UC San Diego Heatlh  Sources 50% of all food purchases from San Diego County (or within 250 miles) and is committed to sustainable seafood purchasing practices. Prevention: Has achieved $35,000 in savings through food waste reduction in 7 months through increased efficiencies. Diversion: Diverted 126 tons of food waste from landfills in 2017.

Unwasted Food: Emerging Programs

BrightSide Produce  A social venture, driven by SDSU students, to develop a sustainable food distribution model for underserved neighborhoods. Delivers fresh produce to small- and medium-sized food stores and the campus. Implemented food waste prevention best practices.

Heartfelt Helpings  Volunteer organization that serves 26,000 annually through a robust food rescue program. Rescued over 30 tons of food from big box stores, grocery stores and two high schools last year.

ProduceGood  Market Share Program: Launched new food rescue program at 3 farmers’ markets and 3 farm/farm outlets this year.  Diverted 82.5 tons of edible food from the landfill since 2010.

Vista Unified School District  Conducted plate waste study in collaboration with UCSD Center for Community Health.  Implemented smarter lunchroom techniques to increase consumption rate of food by students and reduce food waste. Establishing a food donation partnership with the San Diego Food Bank.