Arkansas Department of Education Division of Elementary and Secondary Education Guidance on Food Donation in Child Nutrition Programs

Memo Information

Memo Number
Memo Date
Memo Type
Child Nutrition
Regulatory Authority
USDA Policy Memo SP-11-2012; PL 112-55; Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, Section 9
Response Required
Federal Programs; Superintendents; Principals; Technology Coordinator; Test Coordinator; General Business Manager; Teachers

Primary Contact Information

Memo Reference

No references available.

Memo Text

Public Law 112-55 amended the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) by adding paragraph (1) to Section 9.  The amendment provides clear statutory authority for current Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) food recovery and donation policy in use by schools and institutions participating in the Child Nutrition Programs, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

Food donation has been a longstanding policy in all Child Nutrition Programs and the current amendment to the NSLA clarifies the policy through statute. Although, FNS does not believe this amendment will require change in current food recovery practices, this memorandum provides updated and consolidated guidance on this issue; therefore, the following existing memoranda relating to this issue are rescinded: SP 29-2009, SFSP 04-2009, CACFP 07-2009, Excess Summer Meals, June 26, 2009.

The statute clarifies that any program food not consumed may be donated to eligible local food banks or charitable organizations. The amendment defines the terms “eligible local food banks or charitable organizations” to mean any food bank or charitable organization which is exempt from tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3)). It also extends protections against civil and criminal liability for persons or organizations when making food donations to the extent provided under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, found in section 22 of the Child Nutrition Act.

Child Nutrition Program policy aims first to limit food waste and unnecessary costs. If a school has leftover food on a frequent basis, menu planning and production practices should be adjusted to reduce leftovers.

Nevertheless, because of unforeseen circumstances, occasionally there will be leftover food. All alternatives permitted by Program regulations and State and local health and sanitation codes should be exhausted before discarding food. Options may include using leftovers in subsequent meal services, offering “sharing tables,” (see Commissioner’s Memo FIN-15-052: Food Consumption Outside of the Foodservice Area) or transferring food to other sites. Where it is not feasible to reuse leftovers, excess food may be donated to a non-profit organization, such as a community food bank, homeless shelter, or other nonprofit charitable organizations.

Let’s Glean – Gleaning Toolkit


  1. Child Nutrition Director should discuss donation of leftovers with Superintendent, obtaining approval before proceeding.

  2. Identify a nonprofit “partner” that will accept the leftover food, such as food bank, homeless shelter, etc.

  3. Obtain a copy of the organizations 501(c)(3) documentation.

  4. Obtain “partners” contact information to call when donation available.

  5. Keep records of what, how much and when donations are made. (Use attached Food Donation Documentation Form)

  6. Keep records of who picks up the leftovers and have them sign, date and time of pick up. (Food Donation Documentation Form)

  7. Child Nutrition Staff signs when they release leftovers to non-profit organization. (Food Donation Documentation Form)

  8. Child Nutrition Director should monitor leftover donations, reporting food cost to administration and revising planned production and menus to minimize leftovers.

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