By some estimates, almost one-third of the American food supply goes to waste each year, either in the fields, damaged on the way to or in stores, expired on shelves, in refrigerators and in uneaten leftovers, while an estimated 50 million in the U.S. go hungry. Last year, the government set a goal to reduce discarded food in the U.S. by 50 percent. Starbucks is joining the effort to fight against the waste of food in the U.S. with a new national charitable initiative.
Starbucks announced a new initiative today to donate surplus food from its 7,600 company-owned stores in the U.S. to those in need rather than letting it go to waste. The program, called FoodShare, will enable the company to donate unsold perishable food from its stores to food banks.
Established in partnership with Feeding America and Food Donation Connection (FDC), the effort will grow slowly, but should incorporate all 7,600 sites within 5 years, so 100 percent of food not being sold in restaurants that is salvageable reaches people. Based on current waste levels, they expect to supply 50 million meals by 2021.
Starbucks employees and leadership have looked into ways to donate surplus food to the needy for years. Doing so is not that simple. Current food safety regulations require that sandwiches, salads and other items be discarded once the expiration date on them has passed, even if the food could still be safety eaten.
Accordingly, the company began researching how to safely donate still eatable but expired food items. They did some small-scale food donation initiatives and quality control testing. FDC actually started working with Starbucks in 2010 to collect expired or damaged pastries that cannot be sold to customers in some stores. However, those donations did not require refrigeration and special handling.
“The challenge was finding a way to preserve the food’s quality during delivery,” explained Jane Maly, who is a brand manager for Starbucks’ food team in the company’s press release. “We focused on maintaining the temperature, texture and flavor of the surplus food, so when it reached a person in need, they could safely enjoy it.”
Going forward, refrigerated vans will pick up leftover food every day from the Starbucks sites in the program for Feeding America to redistribute via their food bank network. FDC will also add perishable food in refrigerated conveyances to its pastry pickups.
The Starbucks effort, like many companies’ social impact initiatives, came from employees who grew up in impoverished households or are actively participating in volunteer organizations in their home areas. “When we thought about our vast store footprint across the U.S. and the impact we could make, it put a fire under us to figure out how to donate this food instead of throwing it away,” Maly said.
According to the federal government, more than 130 billion pounds of food gets thrown away in the U.S. each year. However, the problem exists in other countries too. The French government made it illegal for supermarkets to waste food instead of donating it or using it for compost. Starbucks is the joining the fight against food waste in the U.S. and other companies and initiatives need to follow to reduce the economic and social waste of food going uneaten.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
Starbucks: Starbucks Baristas Lead Nationwide Effort to Donate Meals through Feeding America Food Banks
Fortune: Starbucks Will Donate All of Its Unsold Food to America’s Needy
Atlanta Journal Constitution: New initiative from Starbucks aims to improve millions of lives
NPR: It’s Time To Get Serious About Reducing Food Waste, Feds Say
USA Today: Government agencies set goal to cut food waste in half by 2030
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