Food waste and loss occurs at all levels of production and consumption – from the farm, to the processor, to the wholesaler, to supermarkets and restaurants, and to our tables. A report by the United Nations Environment Programme suggests that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year, and to put that into some perspective that’s a little easier to digest, it’s about 400 pounds of food per person per year, for each of the roughly seven billion of us on the planet. And the value of this wastage is estimated to be in the trillion dollar range.
But there’s a quiet revolution going on out there that is putting a dent in the colossal quantities of food that end up in garbage cans and landfills every day, and now the iconic American coffee shop chain, Starbucks, is joining the fight against one of the modern world’s great scourges. Worldwide, Starbucks has more than 23,000 outlets, with nearly 13,000 in the United States alone, and for a few years now, the company has worked with Food Donation Connection in helping to get its unused and unsold cookies and pastries donated to food banks, homeless shelters and families in need. To accommodate safety and health regulations, Starbucks has been restricted to the collection and redistribution of the stores’ non-perishables, but now the company is about to up its game.
Effective immediately, all U.S. company-owned locations will become part of a nationwide project which will make use of a fleet of refrigerated trucks travelling from store to store collecting all perishable food items – salads, sandwiches and snack foods – and with the help of Food Donation Connection and Feeding America, have them delivered to those in need. “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,” explained Starbuck’s spokesperson, Jane Mali. “The challenge was finding a way to preserve the food’s quality during delivery,” she explained. “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.”
The idea originated with Starbucks’ own employees, and the new initiative expects to collect and deliver 5 million meals in the first year of operation, and that number will climb to 50 million within five years, eliminating 100 percent of food wastage in all its locations. And if successful, the plan is to roll out the project into Canada and other jurisdictions. There is a worldwide recognition of the obscene amounts of food that are discarded and needlessly destroyed. France recently made it illegal for supermarkets to waste useable food, and more and more organizations and retailers are contributing to the solution of the problem by promoting the sale of so-called “ugly” and “disfigured” produce. Here’s hoping that Starbucks’ efforts will be a wakeup call to the wider corporate community.
There’s a quiet revolution going on out there that is putting a dent in the colossal quantities of food that end up in garbage cans and landfills every day.