There's a new supermarket in the city of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and it's giving away food for free, The Daily Beast has reported.

The Swingmarket is a nonprofit experiment designed to distribute staples like fruits, vegetables and bread to families that can't afford them, Jacob Meinardi of the Met Zuid Foundation, which runs the market, told The Daily Beast.

Anyone can shop at the Swingmarket, but customers who qualify based on low incomes, debt or other financial factors are given a debit card they can shop with. People are referred by police, social services and other welfare organizations, and because the effort is nonprofit, it isn't bound by the usual government requirements for aid.

The Swingmarket is part of an international trend to get surplus food from wholesalers, retailers and event planners to people who don't have enough to eat.

In the U.S. alone, a third of all food produced is thrown out, which translates to 133 billion pounds of wasted food each year, according to Business Insider. Meanwhile, 49 million Americans don't have access to enough healthy food.

Two main obstacles keep wasted food from feeding hungry people, Business Insider reported. The first is liability.

"Many vendors mistakenly believe they'll get sued for providing food that gets somebody sick, even if they think that food is safe. The vendors may decide giving away their leftovers isn't worth the legal risk," according to Business Insider.

They may not know about the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, a 1996 law that protects good-faith food donors from civil and criminal liability.

The second obstacle is logistics. Most retailers don't know where to donate excess food and don't have the capacity to store or transport it.

That's where nonprofit organizations like Feeding America and Food Finders come in — by making it "easier for vendors to donate food by acting as middlemen between food vendors like grocery stores, produce markets, restaurants and hotels and food providers like food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters," Business Insider reported.

The tech sector is getting in on the game, too, according to CNet, with apps like LeftoverSwap, which helps people give away their leftovers to strangers, and Food Cowboy, which delivers surplus food from wholesalers and restaurants to soup kitchens. A new app, Feeding Forward, does the same thing with companies or event planners that have surplus food.

Anyone in the U.S. can participate in "gleaning" programs, described on the USDA website, which collect fresh foods for distribution to those in need from farms, gardens, farmers markets or any other source.

The Let’s Glean, United We Serve Toolkit, compiled by the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, includes information on how to create a gleaning program, including reaching out to farmers markets, community gardens or farmers in a local community who may be willing to participate.

In France, a law is going into effect this year that makes it illegal for supermarkets to waste food, according to the Atlantic, with steep fines and prison sentences for those that do not donate unsold, edible food to charities.

The law started as a petition headed up by Arash Derambarsh, a municipal councilor from Courbevoie, France, is now calling for an international law to the same effect.

But such a law may not be appropriate for other countries, the Atlantic reports. In the U.K., for example, food waste in the retail sector is already comparatively low. In the U.S., public-private donation systems are already reaching millions of hungry people, with tax breaks and the Good Samaritan law providing incentives.

France does not have a Good Samaritan law, and some retailers have gone so far as to pour bleach over tossed-out food in order to deter dumpster divers and avoid responsibility for potential illness, according to the Atlantic.

Canada is considering a tax break for corporations who donate excess food, the Tyee reported, but some oppose it, saying it rewards companies for overproducing food and doesn't get at the root causes of hunger.


Twitter: @allisonpond