Starbucks’ Baristas Spearhead National Food Donation Program

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The coffee chain will soon donate all of its unsold perishable food items to food banks across the United States. Find out why it's not as easy as it sounds to give away surplus products.

Starbucks is taking strides to reduce its food waste and feed hungry Americans.

The coffee giant announced that instead of tossing out the stores’ unsold perishable food items – including sandwiches and salads – it will donate the ready-to-eat meals to individuals and families in need of food.

Starbucks’ new FoodShare program is a partnership with the Feeding America food bank network and Food Donation Connection. The program – which is expected to provide nearly 5 million meals to hungry Americans in just its first year – was sparked by company baristas who argued for getting the food to people who need it instead of letting it go to waste.

“Nobody should go to bed hungry. It’s not okay,” Teva Sakima, a Starbucks shift supervisor, said in a press release.

Unfortunately, many Americans do go to bed hungry. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 50 million Americans struggle each day to find nourishing food. Knowing the struggles many people face just to put food on the table made throwing away perfectly good ready-to-eat meals even more difficult for Starbucks’ baristas.

“Our people just felt so badly. And this has been going on for quite some time,” Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz explained to CNN. “And so we started doing our homework — municipality by municipality.”

With more than 7,600 Starbucks stores in the United States, it took a while for the coffee company to complete its “homework” and develop the FoodShare program.

Although it may seem like a no-brainer for companies like Starbucks to simply donate leftover or surplus food items to feed America’s hungry, sadly, it’s not that easy. Starbucks has donated its leftover pastries to the hungry for the past several years, but Starbucks says food safety policies require workers to discard refrigerated perishable food items after they reach the designated expiration date, even if the food is still safe to eat.

“The challenge was finding a way to preserve the food’s quality during delivery,” brand manager for the Starbucks food team Jane Maly said in a 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.”

Starbucks says its goal is to expand the FoodShare program over the next five years until the company is able to hit a 100 percent donation rate for its unsold food. The coffee giant said it anticipates donating 50 million meals through FoodShare by 2021.

“This food is going to make a difference, whether it’s a child not going hungry for the night or a family that’s able to enjoy a protein plate that they would not have otherwise been able to afford at Starbucks,” Kienan McFadden, a Starbucks store manager, said in a press release. “Rescuing food in this way from being thrown away will change lives.”

Kudos to Starbucks, its baristas and its partners in this program. I hope FoodShare is a huge success.

What do you think of Starbucks’ new FoodShare program? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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