Legislation may not help local food banks

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Legislation has been sponsored in Congress to promote charitable food donations, but Nevada food banks say it's not what they need to silence local hunger pangs.

Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced a bill Feb. 22 that would expand food donation tax deductions, making them more easily available to farmers, ranchers, small businesses and restaurant owners.

Currently, only corporations tend to qualify for the tax break, and even then the value of the benefit is not much, Lugar said. His bill helps those companies by enlarging the deduction so it covers the full market value of the goods donated.

Food banks in Nevada believe the bill might spur more contributions from large food companies but won't do much to draw in local resorts and restaurants.

''I think this will have more of a corporate impact than an individual impact,'' said Cherie Jamason, director of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

Marlene Richter, director of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, said legislation that helps companies transport goods to the food banks would be more welcome.

Since resorts deal in catered foods, food bank representatives often don't have the trucks or storage to transport leftovers and keep them from spoiling before they can be distributed. Instead, the food is thrown away.

Four years ago, Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which aimed to encourage food donations by providing contributors with protection from civil or criminal liability. However, it does not supersede state or local health regulations, which requires all food to be maintained at certain temperatures during transport or storage.

Bob Ansara, owner of Ricardo's Mexican Restaurant in the MGM Grand, said there are still concerns about potential liability as more evidence about food-borne bacteria surfaces.

Food bank administrators said they hope the prospect of tax benefits will at least spur giving.

''I think that the impact of giving will be contagious enough that it will make the corporations realize they are a member of the community regardless of the tax break,'' said Jamason.

Carol Sloan, from the Family Welfare Services division of the Salvation Army in Las Vegas, said a number of people make donations and don't care about tax breaks.

''I know the people,'' Sloan said. ''I know they do it from their hearts.''


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