Italy joins a group of countries that encourage supermarkets to give unsold food away to the needy after the Italian Government backed a series of laws aimed at cutting down the vast amounts of food wasted by supermarkets and restaurants.

The vote was a landslide in the Italian Senate with 181 senators in favor, 2 against, and 1 abstaining. There are a variety of new laws included in the new legislation. Previously supermarkets or farmers looking to give away food to shelters or needy communities had a surprisingly amount of hurdles to jump in order to do so. New laws will make it easier to give the unsold food away, as well as encourage families to take home unfinished meals in doggy bags at restaurants.

Italian politicians and ministers have said that the amount of food the country wastes every year is unacceptable, especially given their current economic situation. Italy has a public debt of 135% and an unemployment rate of roughly 20% with millions of its citizens living below the poverty line.

A few months ago it was ruled that stealing small amounts of food due to hunger would no longer be considered a crime in Italy. One of the larger parts of the laws passed involves the termination of sanctions, previously given out to those who sold or gave away food after its “sell by” date had passed.

A one million euro grant will back “the doggy bag plan” which will provide more accessible ways for people to bring home their unfinished food when out to eat. The plan was tested out in certain regions and showed good results!

Italy isn’t the first country to address the problem of wasting food. France took a more aggressive approach threatening to fine supermarkets that wasted food instead of giving it to the needy. Fines of up to 75,000 Euro can be given if the supermarkets don’t sign contracts with food donation companies.

“The food currently wasted in Europe could feed over 200 million people,” according to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.