Coffee Giant Pledges To Donate Unsold Food — The Latest In A Global Movement

Coffee shop giant Starbucks is the latest in a steadily growing list of food companies that has pledged to donate unsold food as opposed to it ending up in the landfill. On Tuesday Starbucks announced on their website that they will donate unsold food to food banks across the country.


The program, called Foodshare, aims to donate ready-to-eat meals to food banks from its 7,600 company-operated stores in the U.S. over the next five years according to their website. This will be in collaboration with Food Donation Connection (FDC), who Starbucks already have a relationship with, and Feeding America, a new partnership.

John Kelly, senior vice president, Starbucks Global Responsibility, Community and Public Policy, said he knows that the coffee giant can make a bigger impact. Starbucks has been working with the FDC since 2010 but until now have only donated pastries. They are now pledging to donate 100 percent of their unsold food amounting to almost 50 million meals in five years.

“Like many of our social impact initiatives, the innovation and inspiration comes from our partners who are volunteering in and contributing to their communities, 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.”

Feeding America has estimated 70 billion pounds of food is wasted in America each year. Starbucks hopes that their commitment to donate unsold food will encourage other businesses to put a focus on food rescue.


Starbucks is one of the first major players in America to make such a big pledge to donating unsold food, but rescuing food is somewhat of a global trend at the moment, and a positive one at that.

Last year French Parliament voted to forbid big supermarkets from destroying unsold food. Supermarkets now donate unsold food to charities or farms instead of throwing it out. The bill was part of a national campaign against food waste.

Environmental groups across France, and the world, welcomed the vote. It is estimated that 20 to 30 kilograms of food are wasted per person each year in France, and since the bill was passed, French supermarket chains have been publicizing their efforts to fight waste. Not only are the supermarkets donating unsold food, but they are also promoting the sale of “ugly fruits and vegetables,”

Intermarche gained worldwide attention last year for encouraging consumers to buy ugly fruit and vegetables so that supermarkets wouldn’t have to toss them in the bin.


Socialist lawmaker Guillaume Garon sponsored the bill in France and says that limiting waste is not only good for the environment but also about social justice for those going hungry in France and across the world. “This concerns our compatriots who suffer [from hunger] daily, which is intolerable in the 21st century,” he told the legislature.

The trend to save food from the trash has since gone global and gained momentum. In Australia, between 20 and 40 percent of fruit and vegetables grown are rejected despite being perfectly edible because they do not fit supermarkets’ high cosmetic standards and specifications according to the ABC. CEO of Australia-based Ozharvest, Ronni Kahn, says the French campaign is a step in the right direction. OZharvest collects unwanted produce and food from farms, shops, and restaurants and gives it to over 500 charities to feed the hungry. Some of the food they are called to pick up is in date and edible but not “pretty.”

“Ozharvest was once asked to pick up 14 tonnes of carrots that had been rejected by supermarkets and were otherwise headed for landfill. They weren’t quite orange enough and straight enough. We turned it into carrot soup.”

Ms. Kahn says people need to be better educated and understand that produce that is not quite good looking is still perfectly edible.


Denmark is also making huge leaps and bounds to reduce food waste and has a food supermarket, WeFood, which only sells out-of-date or damaged food. The food is still fine to eat and is priced at least 50 percent less than what it would be in a normal supermarket. The project was set up by the charity Folkekirkens Nodhjaelp and is run by a team of volunteers who visit supermarkets at the end of the day to collect expired products. Officials for WeFood say they’ve already contributed to a 25 percent reduction in food wastage.

People supporting the ugly food movement is catching on fast; food waste is on the decline and the donation of unsold food is on the rise. If all supermarkets and cafes donate unsold food, the effect on the environment, the economy, and people would be astronomical.

[Photo by Ted S. Warren/AP Images]