• Carol Lue

Redistributing Excess Food to Fight Hunger & Reduce Food Waste in Jamaica: A Regulatory Perspective

Updated: Jan 17

This month commemorates the anniversary of Jamaica’s First Food Waste Conference held last year January. CaribShare in collaboration with the Center for Responsible Travel and World Wildlife Fund, developed and hosted the event entitled, Food Waste Management as a Viable Community-based Sustainability Solution in Jamaica’s Tourism Sector in the COVID Adaptation and Recovery Era” at the Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay. It was attended by hotel team leads (General Management, Food & Beverage, and Environmental, Health & Safety) and industry stakeholders --- representing 15 hotels. One of the event highlights was the participation of Floyd Green, Former Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries, who urged the hotel community to consider donating excess food and called for the creation of food banks to be a critical part of our local food security equation.



A 2021 study by UNICEF Jamaica and the Caribbean Policy Research Institute on the impact of COVID-19 on Jamaican households revealed that 45% of households have had to cut back on food, eating smaller amounts or fewer meals each day because they simply cannot afford it.[1] In addition, a disturbing 71% of the Caribbean population faced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020 according to the UN Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2021 report,[2] further justifying the call to better redistribute excess food to the vulnerable in society before it becomes waste and is no longer safe for human consumption.



Video description: Floyd Green, Former Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries, at the 2021 Food Waste Conference spoke about the need to increase Jamaica’s cold storage capacity and network in order for the government’s “Buy Back Program” to be sustained. His message is still relevant today. The Buy Back Program purchases excess produce from farmers, assists those who are unable to sell excess produce due to the downturn in hotel operations caused by the pandemic, and redistributes the excess produce to communities.


The call for the creation of food banks by the Former Minister was quite fitting as the hotel industry is known for their excessive food production and waste. Inefficient meal planning, excessive meal preparation, lack of understanding and monitoring of food waste cost, and low hotel staff awareness and engagement in reducing food waste are a few of the many reasons.


Fortunately, a good portion of leftovers is still fit for human consumption, and if stored appropriately and redistributed to those in need in a timely fashion could help fight hunger. However, unfortunately, no formal program exists in Jamaica to redistribute excess food from potential hotel donors to local communities and food banks. The lack of laws and provisions to protect such prospective food donors from liability related to food harm and injuries is a major reason.


Food Banks Canada distributed 63 million lbs of food in 2021 through the assistance of 4751 donors and supporters in its network.[3] Feeding America’s network of 200 food banks across the country feeds 40 million people at risk of hunger in the US, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors.[4] Such impact of food donations and food banks in fighting hunger in Canada and the US is partly because of the legal protection afforded to food donors.


The Emerson Good Samaritan Food Act in the US protects businesses, including hotels and caterers, from liability when donating to a non-profit organization.[5] In every part of Canada, the law provides protections for companies and individuals who give food without payment or distributes donated food to another person. That could be a producer or distributor that gives food to a food bank, or a charity that gives food to individuals.[6]


Fortunately, a few food bank initiatives already exist in Jamaica today:


· Grace Kennedy Foundation launched Campus Connect Food Bank in response to hunger issues facing university students.

· Led by a team of Jamaicans living overseas, the Regional Family Food and Resource Ltd launched a food bank in Kingston and St Andrew to serve the less fortunate.

· Owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Food Bank was launched to feed families in need across Jamaica through its 5 conference regions.

· Food for the Poor Jamaica is the largest charity organization in Jamaica that provides emergency relief aid and food programs.


However, these food banks do not readily accept good leftovers and excess food from hotels, preferring cash donations instead. By not accepting such donations, there is a significant missed opportunity for cutting food waste and alleviating hunger…and therefore, a need for appropriate food donor laws.


Today, many hotels have chosen to either throw their good leftover food into the dumpster or to give it to pig farmers to feed their animals. Wouldn't it better if that food could instead be used to fight hunger and to improve the human condition?



Sources:

1. Caribbean Research Policy Institute, UNICEF (2021). Lasting impact: Educational, social and psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children (available at

https://www.unicef.org/jamaica/media/3241/file/Lasting%20impact.pdf).

2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2021. Latin America and the Caribbean – Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2021, (available at https://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cb7497en).

3. Food Banks Canada (2022), 2021 Annual Report, (available at

https://www.foodbankscanada.ca/getmedia/f7abd8a6-56a9-4915-b37d-

34cd98ed420a/Annual-Report_FINAL-EN.aspx).

4. Feeding America (2022), available at https://www.feedingamerica.org/our-work).

5. World Wildlife Fund, American Hotel & Lodging Association (2017). Hotel Kitchen Toolkit: Fighting Food Waste in Hotels,(available at https://hotelkitchen.org/wp-

content/uploads/2017/11/HotelKitchen_Final_Final_11102017.pdf).

6. The National Zero Waste Council (2018), Food Donation and Civil Liability in Canada, (available at http://www.nzwc.ca/Documents/FoodDonation-LiabilityDoc.pdf).