A new law in New York is meant to increase donations by supermarkets to feed hungry people amid an historic economic downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo creates a set of guidelines for supermarkets to donate "excess food" to non-profit groups or religious organizations that provide free food to the community.

“Some people call it food insecurity, but the kid who goes to school every day without lunch calls it hunger,” said Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, a Democrat who sponsored the measure. “This is about making sure that the food banks and soup kitchens have enough food to feed the hungry in our communities."

Food donated would be edible items that are safe to consume and have not been sold or used by the supermarket because of labeling, appearance or surplus.

Supermarkets would not be required to deliver the food to pantries or the groups receiving the donation.

The measure comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc on the employment picture, especially for lower income people. The crisis has closed restaurants, bars and other venues that have benefitted from in-person customer experiences.

Unemployment in the spring in New York has fallen from double-digit percentage points, but as 2020 drew to a close still remained higher than the previous year.

Food pantries and other organizations dedicated to aiding hungry people have reported higher demand, including from people who have not previously sought help.

“This law ensures that, in New York, food formerly destined for landfills will now be available for the more than two million state residents who are food insecure,” said Sen. Peter Harckham. “And with so many great community-based organizations and initiatives at work to help our neighbors, making sure they have ‘access to the excess’ will be all around beneficial.”