Tears roll down Teva Sakima’s cheeks as she describes the look of heartbreak on her parents’ faces when they struggled to put food on the table. She remembers family meals as a child with very little to go around.
“Those feelings are hard to forget,” she said. “Nobody should go to bed hungry. It’s not okay.”
An estimated 15 million children live in households where adequate, nutritious food is limited. They’re among the nearly 50 million Americans who are struggling to avoid hunger today, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Sakima, now shift supervisor of a Starbucks store, is one of many partners (employees) who have wanted to feed people who face hunger by donating surplus food from Starbucks stores. The idea sounds simple, but food safety policies required baristas to discard salads, sandwiches and other refrigerated items after the designated expiration date even if the food could still be consumed.
Starbucks has been investing in research and quality assurance testing to develop a way to safely donate fresh food.
Today, Starbucks is announcing FoodShare – a program to donate ready-to-eat meals to food banks from its 7,600 company-operated stores in the U.S. Initially, this will be accomplished through an existing collaboration with Food Donation Connection and a new partnership with Feeding America.
In the first year alone, Starbucks® FoodShare will be able to provide nearly 5 million meals to individuals and families in need of nourishing food. Starbucks intends to scale this program over the next five years and rescue 100 percent of its food available for donation from participating company-operated U.S. stores. That amounts to almost 50 million meals by 2021.
‘Partners are the heroes’
Since 2010, Starbucks stores have donated pastries through the support of Food Donation Connection (FDC), a service provider that collects pastries at the company’s stores after they can no longer be sold to customers. Starbucks worked with FDC to develop a safe process to add perishable food to the pick-up, which will be implemented in participating company-operated stores in the U.S. by this time next year.
“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,” said Jane Maly, brand manager, Starbucks Food team. “The challenge was finding a way to preserve the food’s quality during delivery. 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 recently established a partnership with Feeding America – the largest domestic hunger-relief and food-rescue nonprofit in the U.S. – to redistribute unsold food. Through this process, a refrigerated van will pick up food from Starbucks stores each day and deliver it to the Feeding America network.
“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,” said Kienan McFadden, a Starbucks store manager. “Rescuing food in this way from being thrown away will change lives. It makes me proud to know partners are the heroes in this.”
Living Our Values
The company’s new program could potentially expand with refrigerated vans making additional stops at other restaurants that join in the effort, increasing the impact exponentially.
“We applaud Starbucks for its leadership and commitment to ending hunger. Their program will have a tremendous impact in communities, and it is also a testament of how we can work together to help more individuals and families achieve food security,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America.
In addition to feeding people who struggle with hunger, diverting food surplus from landfills furthers Starbucks goal to minimize the company’s environmental footprint and inspire other companies to do the same. With an estimated 70 billion pounds of food waste in America each year, according to Feeding America, Starbucks hopes to encourage other businesses to put a focus on food rescue.
“Our hope is by taking this first step, other companies will see the possibility for their participation and together we will make great strides in combating hunger,” said Cliff Burrows, group president, Starbucks U.S. and Americas. “FoodShare will not only make our partners proud, but once again will allow us to live our values.”