Starbucks to Start Donating Leftover Prepared Meals to Food Banks

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Hub City Starbucks will donate its leftover, surplus, ready-to-eat meals to food banks instead of throwing it in the trash.

In fact, all the 154 company-operated Starbucks in the Garden State may do the same, according to a recent news release announcing “FoodShare,” a program intended to both stop wasting food, and offer meals to individuals and families in need of nourishing food.

Starbucks says it will provide as many as 5 million meals, to those in need, through its “existing collaboration with ‘Food Donation Connection (FDC),’ and [also] a new partnership with ‘Feeding America,’” in the first year of FoodShare.

Then, in a build-out, over the next five years, the program will salvage nearly 50 million prepared meals by 2021, for donation.  Meals will only be picked up from “participating company-operated U.S. stores,” which leaves out some 80 licensed locations in the Garden State.

“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,” said Jane Maly, brand manager, Starbucks Food team.

“When we thought about our vast store footprint across the U.S. … it put a fire under us to figure out how to donate this food instead of throwing it away.”

Starbucks says it already donates pastries in collaboration with the FDC service, which currently picks-up product that can't be sold in its cafes due to their age. But recently the two have come up with a safe process to add foods that would ordinarily go bad to the pick-ups. 

“Like many of our social impact initiatives, the innovation and inspiration comes from our partners who are volunteering in and contributing to their communities,” said John Kelly, senior vice president, Starbucks Global Responsibility, Community and Public Policy.

“They saw the need for us to do more, and find a way to use our scale to bring more nourishing and ready-to-eat meals to those in need.”

Starbucks says the idea originated with its team members; “Like many of our social impact initiatives, the innovation and inspiration comes from our partners who are volunteering in and contributing to their communities,” said John Kelly, senior vice president of Starbucks Global Responsibility, Community and Public Policy.

“They saw the need for us to do more, and find a way to use our scale to bring more nourishing and ready-to-eat meals to those in need.”

Starbucks notes that by “diverting food surplus from landfills,” it minimizes its environmental footprint.

There are 7,600 Starbucks-operated locations throughout the U.S., according to the most recent company data. Starbucks could also “encourage other businesses [nationwide] to put a focus on food rescue." 

Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America, said the program will have a tremendous impact on communities: “We applaud Starbucks for its leadership and commitment to ending hunger. It is also a testament of how we can work together to help more individuals and families achieve food security.” 

In the past year, Starbucks raised prices on many of its items, and got push-back on its announced changes to its "My Starbucks Reward" program. Those changes go into affect on April 1, and it means less free stuff for customers, and hence cost savings for the company. 

But it seems the company would also be motivated to make changes since many people have been reportedly gaming the system by asking to have their items tallied up separately at check out, in order to earn more rewards. Now the system will be based on the dollar amount spent, rather than how many times customers make a purchase.