Food is one of the benchmarks of the ancient and modern Italian culture, and as such, they have it in excess and mouth-watering varieties. The best chefs in the world arguably come from Italy. It’s a wonder that a country so “crazy about food” still has millions of people going hungry, with about 5.1 million people still living in absolute poverty .
In 2016, the Italian government passed a bill to encourage supermarkets, malls, grocery stores, and bars to donate excess food to the needy rather than throwing the goods away . The bill passed seamlessly through the lower house of parliament and was welcomed with open arms by the Senate. The idea was not only economically advantageous for the country’s administration, but it was intended to promote good moral ethics, kindness, and national unity amongst the citizens.
Before the bill was passed, Italy was spending an average of 13 billion USD annually on waste management . In 2015, the country wasted a cumulative 550 million tons of food. The legislation not only wanted to cut down on revenue allocated to waste management, but also to come to the aid of the poor in the most feasible way possible.
Rewards for kindness
Food vendors who donated to the needy would be offered reductions in taxes, which would vary with the number and quantity of donations they made. All food that is donated must not be expired and this will be declared at the time of donation.
To help make this work, there will be tax incentives. Without them it would have been a harder sell getting local businesses to fall in line with the new policy, and sooner or later, they’d find a way to bypass it. However, tax is a pain in the neck and every business owner would jump at an opportunity to have it reduced. Italy took a well-aimed shot with this one.
“We are making it more convenient for companies to donate than to waste. We currently recover 550 million tons of excess food each year but we want to arrive at one billion in 2016,” said Maurizio Martina, ex-Minister of Agricultural, Food and Forestry policies (2014-2017) to Independent .
Italy became the second European country to pass a bill to curb food waste. The French government passed a bill in 2016 that would prevent any supermarkets occupying more than 400 square meters of space from throwing away excess food . They would either donate to charities or incur fines. Italy went the “win-win for everyone” route, and rather than imposing a fine for wastage, they implemented rewards for donating.