Food rescue, also called food recovery or food salvage, is the practice of gleaning edible food that would otherwise go to waste from places such as restaurants, grocery stores, produce markets, or dining facilities and distributing it to local emergency food programs.
The recovered food is edible, but often not sellable. Products that are at or past their "sell by" dates or are imperfect in any way such as a bruised apple or day-old bread are donated by grocery stores, food vendors, restaurants, and farmers markets. Other times, the food is unblemished, but restaurants may have made or ordered too much or may have good pieces of food (such as scraps of fish or meat) that are byproducts of the process of preparing foods to cook and serve. Also, food manufacturers may donate products that marginally fail quality control, or that has become short-dated.
In most cases, the rescued food is being saved from being thrown into a dumpster and, ultimately, landfills or other garbage disposals. Food recovered on farms is kept from being plowed under. On farms, the donations often must be harvested, or gleaned, by volunteers. Also, to help rescue food that would otherwise be wasted, the USDA has expanded their Farm Storage Facility Loan Program. The Farm Storage Facility Loan Program helps farmers obtain low-cost loans for more farm storage so they can protect more food from becoming waste.
In the United States, businesses that source food rescue programs have received tax benefits for their donations and have been protected from liability lawsuits by the federal Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act since 1996.
The benefit of many food rescue programs is they offer healthy food to those in need but who may not meet the application requirements of state food-assistance programs. Many programs also provide immediate emergency assistance, without having to wait through an application process. Food rescue organizations are less restricted by cost and availability of food, as so much edible food is thrown out and free for the taking, so eligibility requirements are generally unnecessary. This organizational model often allows food rescues to provide nutritional assistance more quickly, with more flexibility and accessibility than other types of hunger relief programs.
Food reuse strategies
There are various ways how people and organizations can rescue food that would otherwise go to a landfill. For example, United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends the following actions 
Reduce the amount of food that is generated and potentially wasted. Individuals can for example make shopping lists so they don't buy more food than they really need. 
Organizations can donate both non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food at the end of its shelf life, e. g. to food banks, food pantries, food rescue programs, homeless shelters, and other organizations.  
Anaerobic Digestion is a conversion process that converts food waste into renewable energy. Food is separated from any packaging and broken down into a more digestible state and then it is mixed with bacteria in special oxygen free holding tanks. The bacteria work to break down the food waste converting it into methane biogas which can be used to generate electricity.
Hydrothermal Liquefaction is the process of heating food waste under high pressure, converting the food waste into an oil that can then be refined into fuel. Once the initial liquefaction is complete, the watery waste left over then goes through anaerobic digestion where the microbes break down the waste into methane and carbon dioxide biogas. This biogas can be used for heat and electricity.
In Australia, OzHarvest was launched in November 2004.
Food rescue charities outside of the United States include Israel's Leket Israel-The National Food Bank
New Zealand's first food rescue organization is Kaibosh. Operating in Wellington, it was founded in August 2008. FoodShare, provides food rescue for the city of Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand commenced operations in March 2012. Fairfood and KiwiHarvest operate in Auckland, and other organizations work in Hamilton, Tauranga, Palmerston North, and Christchurch.
A 2015 study  listed 53 charitable organisations that are actively running food rescue programs in Norway. The largest donors are supermarkets (59%), followed by bakeries and other food producers. The distributors are mainly charitable organizations, mostly with a religious connection, like the Salvation Army and the Church City Mission. Most of the work is done by volunteers, without any salary. The receivers are mainly narcotic and alcohol addicts, but also include homeless, immigrants and victims of domestic violence. Most of the food is given away as prepared meals. More than one million meals are provided per year in the cities covered by the study. Other food is given away as bags of groceries.
Distribution of free food is often used as a method for charitable organizations to enter into contact with people who need help with drug abuse, psychological problems or similar. Volunteers often emphasize the importance of having spaces where users can pick up food with dignity and discretion, plus sometimes have a cup of coffee or a shower. Often, volunteers provide emotional support or help people with things unrelated to food acquisition, such as sharing work tips or helping immigrants with administrative tasks requiring knowledge of the Norwegian language.
The charities sometimes cooperate with each other by having a common food bank. This makes it easier to maintain steady supplies of diversified food to users.
Some users report that receiving free food may lead to stigmatization and thereby feelings of inferiority or social exclusion. To counter this, charities sometimes charge a low, symbolic price for the food, or offer food in exchange for participating in the work of preparing it.
Some organizations, such as Fareshare in England, work directly with food manufacturers to minimize food wastage. In 2005 2,000 tonnes of food was saved from being wasted, This food was then redistributed to a community food network of 300 organizations. This food contributed to over 3.3 million meals to 12,000 disadvantaged people each day in 34 cities and towns across the UK.
In America, numerous food rescue organizations pick up and deliver food in refrigerated trucks. Most are members of Feeding America, formerly America's Second Harvest. Recipient agencies serve people of low and no income.
In Chicago, foodrescue.io runs the largest food rescue program for prepared and perishable foods. They coordinate the rescue of fresh and prepared food from restaurants, grocery stores, cafeterias and caterers that reaches more than 80 nonprofits around the Chicago area. Initially, it focused on making local connections between excess food and the need for nonprofits. As of 2015, the food from downtown and wealthy neighborhoods is also reaching neighborhoods in the Southside and the Westside that are designated as food deserts.
Second Helpings, Inc., founded in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1998, addresses four problems—food waste, hunger, job training, and sourcing skilled labor for the local food service industry. Each day Second Helpings volunteers and staff rescue, prepare and distribute 3,500 hot, nutritious meals to 70 social service agencies. As of July 2013, more than 500 adults have graduated from the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training program which trains disadvantaged adults for careers in the foodservice industry as cooks, executive chefs, business owners and culinary instructors.
Food Rescue, founded in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2007, is an independent nonprofit which brings together more than 500 volunteers who donate 90 minutes of their time once a month to rescue unserved restaurant food and deliver it to local food pantries. Food Rescue has salvaged an estimated retail value of $1 million annually. The growing organization has chapters in Indianapolis, Greenwood, and Muncie, Indiana; Greenville, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Ft. Worth, Texas; Minneapolis, Minnesota; St. Paul, Minnesota; Naples, New York; and Fredericksburg, Norfolk, and Reston, Virginia.
The Food Bank for Westchester operates a Food Recovery program in Westchester, New York, and partners with over donors (grocers and local retailers) to provide fresh food to the hungry and food-insecure of that County.
The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, founded in North Carolina in 1989, reached a distribution level of 5 million pounds (2,300 tonnes) annually as of 2007. They distribute to about 200 programs, including shelters, soup kitchens, pantries, and housing authority neighborhoods. Volunteers prepare grocery bags of fresh fruits, vegetables, and bread to deliver door-to-door to seniors on fixed incomes and low-income single parent households.
Some food rescue organizations specialize in surplus produce, which is more difficult to distribute than many prepared foods due to its short shelf life. One such organization is Fair Foods, which has been distributing surplus produce to the Boston area since 1988, distributing over 6,000 pounds of fresh food daily. With a mission of keeping everyone in Boston full and healthy, Fair Foods distributes mixed bags of produce at over 20 sites in the Boston metro area.
Some organizations, like Waste No Food, use technology to notify charities where and when excess food is available to aid in their food recovery efforts.
A directory of food rescue organizations, the Food Rescue Locator, is maintained by Sustainable America.
- City Harvest (organization)
- Feeding America
- Food Donation Connection
- Food Not Bombs
- Food waste
- Forgotten Harvest
- Garbage picking
- Love Food, Hate Waste
- Pending Meal
- USA Harvest
- United States Department of Agriculture
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- Food Rescue Locator
- Food Not Bombs
- Second Harvest Toronto
- Second Helpings
- Food Rescue
- Fair Foods
- City Harvest
- D.C. Central Kitchen
- Hands For Hunger - a Bahamian food rescue program, which has provided more than half a million meals to hungry members of the New Providence community of Nassau, the Bahamas since 2008.
- University of Puget Sound Food Salvage Program - A student-run Food Salvage program operating since 1999.
- Food Not Bombs
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