WW International : , Grubhub, 24 Others Release Open Letter to Congress to Fight Food Waste and Insecurity

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Open Letter

  • The open letter calls on Congress to amend the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (1996).
  • The 26 signatories, 18 of which are corporate and 8 are nonprofit, include Harvard Law’s Food and Policy Clinic, Panera Bread, City Harvest, and more.

To the 117th United States Congress:

We write to you today to discuss the issue of food insecurity in the United States. During the coronavirus pandemic, levels of food insecurity increased dramatically: Early evidence suggests that in 2020, over 17 million more Americans experienced food insecurity than in 2019.[1] And in 2021, that number is estimated to rise even further to an unprecedented 42 million people.[2]

At the same time, $408 billion is spent processing, transporting, storing, and disposing of food that’s never eaten each year, meaning millions of pounds of fresh food going to waste.[3] Therefore, the issue is not so much lack of food-it’s the inability to effectively leverage our food system.

In 1996, Congress passed the Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (42 U.S. Code § 1791) with bipartisan support. This legislation was designed to encourage companies to donate their surplus food and grocery products to nonprofits by providing civil and criminal liability protection to food donors and food recovery organizations. However, many food manufacturers, retailers, farmers, and restaurants still cite fear of liability as one of the main reasons they don’t donate, which leads to massive amounts of food waste. Expanding and clarifying existing liability protections for food donation is crucial to ensuring that companies can donate safe, quality foods, including fresh produce, without a preventable concern about litigation.

We, the undersigned companies and nonprofit organizations, believe that with the right policy actions and guidance, such as the changes outlined in the Food Donation Improvement Act of 2021 introduced by Senator Blumenthal and Senator Toomey on November 30, we can make meaningful progress on this issue-which would provide immediate relief to the millions of Americans in our communities experiencing food insecurity. Specifically, we recommend members of Congress take the following steps:

1. Direct USDA to clarify key terms and conditions within the Emerson Act to raise awareness and reduce fear of retribution. Some provisions of the Emerson Act are still unclear, so donors remain afraid of legal liability. We recommend publishing clearer guidance, including an interpretation of key terms and best practices for food donations, as the current guidance does not address this issue. The guidance should do the following:

  • Clarify terms such as “in good faith,” to help organizations understand what and when foods can be safely donated.
  • Clarify the quality and labeling standards that donated foods must meet in order to qualify for liability protection.
  • Separately, draft guidance around time/temperature controls, transportation, and date labeling in partnership for food donation with the FDA, similar to the FSIS published draft guidance on food safety for the donation of meat or poultry.[4]

2. Broaden protections to include more types of food donations, including items sold at low cost and donations offered from food businesses directly to end recipients. This will help the EPA and USDA reach their goal of reducing food loss and waste by 50% by 2030[5], in alignment with the UN SDG2 goal of halving per capita food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food waste along production and supply chains. The protections should accomplish the following:

  • Extend liability protection to donations provided at a low price. Currently, the act only protects food donations where the end participant receives food free of charge. Expanding protections to cover non-profit organizations that provide products at a low price (an amount that covers the cost of handling, administering, and distributing the food) would help support different food-donation models, such as social supermarkets or nonprofit grocery stores that sell donated and recovered food at a very low price.
  • Extend liability protection to certain “direct donations” made by food businesses directly to those in need. The Emerson Act only covers donations to nonprofits, which creates an unnecessary barrier for businesses, restaurants, schools, and other organizations looking to donate food. The pandemic showed that local retailers, restaurant owners, and farmers are more than willing to step up and function as the backbones of their communities-and often have immediate access to community members not always reached by food pantries. Most food donors are required to have food protection and food handler certifications that adhere to safety standards comparable to food banks and pantries. Protecting direct donations by businesses and food service institutions (or by farmers, who donate low-risk products such as produce) that adhere to these same high standards can allow individuals to pick up food from more accessible locations and prevent many “last mile” food delivery challenges.

3. Expand the federal enhanced tax deduction for food donation. The current US federal enhanced tax deduction for food donation provides an incentive for businesses by allowing them to deduct nearly twice the amount for food donations as can be deducted for other charitable donations. However, the current tax deduction isn’t suited for farmers and doesn’t cover nonprofit sales of donated food or transportation costs associated with donation. This discourages farmers from donating and nonprofits from innovating, which leads to excess waste. We recommend the following changes to the tax deduction:

  • Include transportation of donated food as a separate cost eligible for an enhanced tax deduction. This will help businesses overcome one of the most expensive barriers to donating excess food: cost of transportation.
  • Provide an alternative tax credit for food donation by farmers. Most farmers operate at such low-profit margins that they don’t make enough to claim the enhanced tax deduction for food donation. Because of this, they are not adequately compensated for the costs of making those donations, often leading to lack of incentive and increased waste. Offsetting some of the cost of donation, including cost of labor, with an alternative tax credit that is better tailored to farmers would incentivize more farmers to donate.

By taking these actions, we can provide the necessary flexibility to encourage corporations, farmers, restaurants, business owners, nonprofits, and recovery networks to distribute safe, fresh food to those who need it most.

We are committed to using our resources to combat food insecurity-and identifying key opportunities to encourage accelerated progress through collective action. We believe that passing the Food Donation Improvement Act of 2021 is the first step toward making this a reality, and we urge Congress to prioritize the passing of the legislation. Thank you for your attention, and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you on this important issue.

The undersigned companies and nonprofit organizations include:

WW International

New York, NY

Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic

Cambridge, MA

Grubhub

Chicago, IL

Ahold Delhaize USA

Quincy, MA

Blue Apron

New York, NY

ButcherBox

Boston, MA

City Harvest

New York, NY

Copia

San Francisco, CA

DC Central Kitchen

Washington, D.C.

Dole Packaged Foods, LLC

Charlotte, NC

Eat Just, Inc.

San Francisco, CA

Farmers Fridge

Chicago, IL

Farmstead

Burlingame, CA

Food for Climate League

Chicago, IL

Food Recovery Network

Washington, D.C.

Hellmann’s

Englewood Cliffs, NJ

Impossible Foods

Redwood City, CA

Just Salad

New York, NY

Lineage Logistics

Novi, MI

Misfits Market

Delanco, NJ

Natural Resources Defense Council

New York, NY

Oak View Group

Los Angeles, CA

Once Upon a Farm

Berkeley, CA

Panera Bread

St. Louis, MO

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine

New York, NY

Too Good to Go

New York, NY

About WW International, Inc.

WW (formerly Weight Watchers) is a human-centric technology company powered by the world’s leading commercial weight management program. As a global wellness company, we inspire millions of people to adopt healthy habits for real life. Through our comprehensive digital app, expert Coaches and engaging experiences, members follow our proven, sustainable, science-based program focused on food, activity, mindset and sleep. Leveraging nearly six decades of expertise in nutritional and behavioral change science, providing real human connection and building inspired communities, our purpose is to democratize and deliver holistic wellness for all. To learn more about the WW approach to healthy living, please visit ww.com. For more information about our global business, visit our corporate website at corporate.ww.com.

This news release includes “forward-looking statements,” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, including, in particular, any statements about the Company’s plans, strategies, objectives, and prospects. The Company generally uses the words “may,” “will,” “could,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “plan,” “intend,” “aim” and similar expressions in this news release to identify forward-looking statements. The Company bases these forward-looking statements on its current views with respect to future events and financial performance. Actual results could differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions, including, among other things: the impact of the global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus on the Company’s business and liquidity and on the business environment and markets in which the Company operates; competition from other weight management and wellness industry participants or the development of more effective or more favorably perceived weight management methods; the Company’s failure to continue to retain and grow its subscriber base; the Company’s ability to continue to develop new, innovative services and products and enhance its existing services and products or the failure of its services, products or brands to continue to appeal to the market, or the Company’s ability to successfully expand into new channels of distribution or respond to consumer trends; the ability to successfully implement strategic initiatives; the effectiveness of the Company’s advertising and marketing programs, including the strength of its social media presence; the impact on the Company’s reputation of actions taken by its franchisees, licensees, suppliers and other partners; the recognition of asset impairment charges; the loss of key personnel, strategic partners or consultants or failure to effectively manage and motivate the Company’s workforce; the inability to renew certain of the Company’s licenses, or the inability to do so on terms that are favorable to the Company; the expiration or early termination by the Company of leases; uncertainties related to a downturn in general economic conditions or consumer confidence; the Company’s ability to successfully make acquisitions or enter into joint ventures, including its ability to successfully integrate, operate or realize the anticipated benefits of such businesses; the seasonal nature of the Company’s business; the impact of events that discourage or impede people from gathering with others or accessing resources; the Company’s failure to maintain effective internal control over financial reporting; the impact of the Company’s substantial amount of debt, debt service obligations and debt covenants, and the Company’s exposure to variable rate indebtedness; the ability to generate sufficient cash to service the Company’s debt and satisfy its other liquidity requirements; uncertainties regarding the satisfactory operation of the Company’s technology or systems; the impact of data security breaches or privacy concerns, including the costs of compliance with evolving privacy laws and regulations; the Company’s ability to enforce its intellectual property rights both domestically and internationally, as well as the impact of its involvement in any claims related to intellectual property rights; risks and uncertainties associated with the Company’s international operations, including regulatory, economic, political, social, intellectual property and foreign currency risks; the outcomes of litigation or regulatory actions; the impact of existing and future laws and regulations; the possibility that the interests of Artal Group S.A., the largest holder of the Company’s common stock and a shareholder with significant influence over the Company, will conflict with the Company’s interests or the interests of other holders of the Company’s common stock; the impact that the sale of substantial amounts of the Company’s common stock by existing large shareholders, or the perception that such sales could occur, could have on the market price of the Company’s common stock; and other risks and uncertainties, including those detailed from time to time in the Company’s periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. You should not put undue reliance on any forward-looking statements. You should understand that many important factors, including those discussed herein, could cause the Company’s results to differ materially from those expressed or suggested in any forward-looking statement. Except as required by law, the Company does not undertake any obligation to update or revise these forward-looking statements to reflect new information or events or circumstances that occur after the date of this news release or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events or otherwise. Readers are advised to review the Company’s filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (which are available on the SEC’s EDGAR database at www.sec.govand via the Company’s website at corporate.ww.com).

[1] “Food Insecurity during COVID-19” Craig Gundersen, Monica Hake, Adam Dewey, Emily Engelhard. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aepp.13100

[2] “Hunger in America Is Growing.” Feeding America, www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america.

[3] “Roadmap to 2030: Reducing U.S. Food Waste by 50% and the ReFED Insights Engine” ReFED. https://refed.com/uploads/refed_roadmap2030-FINAL.pdf

[4] “FSIS Guideline to Assist with Donation of Eligible Meat & Poultry Products to Non-Profit Organizations December 2020.” Food Safety and Inspection Service, https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2021-01/FSIS-Guideline-Food-Donation.pdf

[5] “United States 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal.” Environmental Protection Agency,https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/united-states-2030-food-loss-and-waste-reduction-goal

For more information, contact:

Social Impact:

Sona Jones

VP Community & Impact

sona.jones@ww.com

Media:

Nicole Penn

VP Corporate Communications

[email protected]

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