Fifth District Report
Column by Tom Perriello
As we enter the holiday season, we take the time to give thanks for our blessings, and to remember those less fortunate and how we can help our neighbors who are struggling to feed their families during this economic downturn. The need for help at our local food banks this year is grave, with many local food organizations reporting a 30 percent increase in demand since last year. People seeking assistance from food banks include those who have lost their jobs, as well as the working poor – folks who work two or three jobs but are still being crushed by the costs of housing, health care, and energy bills.
I am a co-sponsor of H.R. 3227, the Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive Extension Act of 2009, a bipartisan bill that would expand and make permanent a tax incentive for farmers and ranchers to donate excess, or gleaned, food inventory to charity. The tradition of gleaning goes back to Biblical times as referenced in Leviticus 23:22, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien.”
Under current law, farmers that donate excess food inventory to charity are eligible for a special deduction equal to its full market value, but this measure is set to expire for some farmers at the end of this year. The bill would permanently extend this deduction for contributions of food inventory and change how the tax credit is calculated to make it easier for farmers to qualify. These tax breaks would provide much needed additional resources to food banks and soup kitchens across America. Our farmers can be an even bigger part of the solution to the crisis of hunger here in America.
Another hunger relief bill I am supporting in Congress has been introduced by Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf (R-10th District). H.R. 1403, the School Food Recovery Act, would allow schools to give unused food to food banks under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which protects donors who donate in good faith from all liability. The bill aims to clarify that schools are covered under the Good Samaritan Act and allows each school to authorize an employee who has the discretion to release extra food to local food banks.
In 1993, Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which protects donors who give to food banks in good faith from all liability. This law has helped encourage many businesses and civic organizations to donate more food and to strengthen connections with food agencies. Unfortunately, many school districts have not participated in donating excess food, primarily due to administrative resistance and a misperception that federal regulation doesn’t allow it. The purpose of this legislation is simple: to keep excess school food out of the garbage and get it into our food banks. I am glad to support Rep. Wolf’s efforts to move this important legislation forward.
There are many needs at our local food organizations this winter and throughout the entire year. Virginians are already tremendously giving of their time, talent, and treasure in addressing our neighbors’ needs. To learn more about what you can do to help, you may contact your local food bank or visit www.serve.gov to download a toolkit on fighting hunger.
Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit www.perriello.house.gov to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.
Tom Perriello represents the Fifth District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives.
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