Prompted by conversations with troubled employees, Starbucks recently announced it would begin partnering with Feeding America on a new food diversion initiative. The rescue program, FoodShare, aims to divert five million healthy meals in the first year from landfills to food banks.
Laura Olson, Senior Manager of ethical sourcing at Starbucks, told POLITICO that the company hopes to expand FoodShare to a 100-percent donation rate by 2021, which amounts to 50 million meals for the homeless and food insecure. The infrastructure and logistics of the program underwent a test period in San Diego recently to iron out inefficiencies, and Olson now foresees a collaborative future for the initiative. “What’s next door? What’s down the street? Why can’t we pick up their food as well?” she asked, referring to the proposal that Starbucks locations team up with neighboring retailers to share refrigerated trucks and other infrastructure.
According to research by the Natural Resources Defense Council, misleading expiration dates lead Americans to needlessly throw away billions of pounds of perfectly good food each year. “When we thought about our vast store footprint across the U.S. and the impact we could make, it put fire under us to figure out how to donate this food instead of throwing it away,” says Starbucks Food Team brand manager Jane Maly.
Starbucks is not alone in its effort to reduce food waste, but as a massively popular international chain, its commitment to the issue bears great weight in reshaping industry standards. The FoodShare program also speaks to the power of average employees in transforming the nation’s food system. As Cliff Burrows, Starbucks’ U.S. and Americas group president, noted, “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.”