Starbucks will start donating 100 percent of its unused food to those in need
If you've ever wondered where all those Starbucks bagels and bistro boxes go after closing time, here's an answer you can get behind.
Starbucks has pledged to donate 100% of its leftover food through a new program called FoodShare, the company announced in a release on Tuesday. Starbucks created the initiative in partnership with nonprofit organization Feeding America and food collection group Food Donation Connection, and it will allow the company to donate perishable, ready-to-eat meals from its 7,600 stores to food banks nationwide.
According to Feeding America, more than 48 million Americans live in food-insecure households, where access to food isn't always stable. More than 15% of households nationwide are considered food insecure — an issue Feeding America says impacts every county in the U.S.
But food scarcity for low-income families isn't the only food-related issue within the U.S. Waste also plays a role in the nation's food problem. An estimated 70 billion pounds of food waste is produced across the U.S. each year, according to Feeding America.
Through its new program, Starbucks hopes to help ease the burden of food scarcity on families while also eliminating the company's direct contribution to food waste statistics.
Here's how it will work: Food Donation Connection will pick up food each day from every Starbucks location in the U.S. via refrigerated vans. That perishable food, previously considered risky to donate due to its refrigeration needs, will then reach Feeding America, which will redistribute it to those in need.
"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," Starbucks store manager Kienan McFadden said in the release. "Rescuing food ... from being thrown away will change lives."
Though a commitment to donate 100% of unused food is new to the corporation, Starbucks has been reducing its food waste through donations for years. Stores have donated uneaten pastries to food banks since 2010 — a common practice in the food service industry, especially for major corporations.
But the company hasn't historically donated perishable foods because of logistical issues. It's a trickier donation pipeline, one which requires refrigeration and food-safety monitoring of donated meals, practices that don't apply to pastry donation.
Starbucks says it has been working on this process, making perishable food donations a reality by investing in "research and quality assurance testing" with pilot programs around the U.S.
"The challenge was finding a way to preserve the food's quality during delivery," said Jane Maly, brand manager of Starbucks Food team. "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."
In the first year alone, Starbucks projects its FoodShare program will be able to provide an estimated 5 million meals to individuals and families in need.
The company intends to scale this program over the next five years, meaning it will steadily roll out the perishable food donation across the country until 100% of the corporation's leftover food from company-operated stores is donated daily.
Starbucks did not immediately respond to Mashable's request for comment.