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Lawmakers mull bill requiring supermarkets to donate excess edible food

Volunteers collecting food for donation to people in time of the pandemic.
Vladimir Vladimirov
Getty Images
Volunteers collecting food for donation to people in time of the pandemic.

A bipartisan group of Connecticut lawmakers is co-sponsoring a bill that would require supermarkets to periodically donate unsold food that’s still edible. At a General Law Committee public hearing Tuesday, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers voiced support for encouraging supermarkets to establish food donation programs. But there was debate over whether to mandate donations.

Democratic Representative Dorinda Borer, a co-sponsor of the bill, says many supermarkets in Connecticut already donate food that is still edible to food banks, but she says there are gaps in the current arrangement: “Not all supermarket chains donate…[and] for those large chains that do donate, not all stores within that chain donate so we want to put formality around the process.”

The bill would require Connecticut supermarkets to periodically make excess edible canned and perishable foods available. The goal is to address hunger and food insecurity. Thirteen percent of Connecticut residents reported using a food bank since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Data Haven. In the state’s “urban core,” or poorest and most dense cities, that number jumped to 24%.

The legislation is also aimed at reducing food waste and supporting the operation of food banks or food recovery organizations.

The bipartisan support was not without exception: some lawmakers suggested removing wording that would require supermarkets to donate unused food. “To actually put it into language that a business needs to donate is quite different from any other piece of legislation that we’ve had,” said Republican Representative Tim Ackert.

New York passed a similar bill last year, which did not include a requirement for supermarkets to donate.

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She loves hearing what you thought of her stories or story ideas you have so please email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org.

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