Starbucks Grinds Away at Hunger

Starbucks is synonymous with excess – after all, who really needs a $6.00, 440 calorie Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino? But now, the high-end coffee company is using its excess for a good cause. It is donating 100% of its leftover prepared meals to food banks and shelters through the FoodShare program.

Starbucks’ involvement in the program dates back to 2010. At that time, the company partnered with Food Donation Connection to donate unsold pastries. All other food, however, was simply wasted at the end of every day. Thus, baristas urged management to expand the program to include perishables, noting “its frustrating to throw away so much food—especially because you know that there are people that need it”.

According to Starbucks Brand Manager, Jane Maly, the challenge was preserving the food’s quality during delivery “so when it reached a person in need, they could safely enjoy it”. The solution arrived in the form of a fleet of refrigerated trucks. The trucks can visit the chain’s 7600 U.S. locations throughout the day to collect any unsold, edible items (including breakfast sandwiches, salads, paninis, Bistro Boxes etc). They can then deliver the items to the Feeding America network, the largest hunger-relief and food-rescue charity in the United States.

Starbucks first piloted the program in Arizona last July. Managers figured that if they could keep food cold and fresh in the heat of the Sonoran desert, they could do it anywhere! After a successful pilot, the company introduced the program nationwide (at participating Starbucks) in March 2016.

The coffee house predicts that it will donate almost 5 million meals by the end of its first year…and more than 50 million meals by 2021! This could take a sizable bite out of America’s hunger problem, which currently affects over 48 million people. As an added benefit, Starbucks will divert food waste from landfills, drastically reducing its environmental footprint. (Feeding America estimates that Americans produce 70 billion pounds of food waste every year!)

Starbucks also believes that its efforts could inspire other companies to do the same. “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”. These companies—ranging from grocery stores to restaurants—could even use the same fleet of refrigerated trucks. Then Starbucks’ impact could really go from “grande” to “venti”!

Want to join the fight against hunger? Complete an Op4G survey for one of our partners: Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, Capital Area Food Bank of TexasOregon Food Bank, SF-Marin Food Bank, Vermont Foodbank, and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.



Waste Not, Want Not: Solving the Global Food Crisis

pic3Ever find yourself throwing out last week’s groceries, or only finishing half your meal? You are not alone. According to the latest research from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), roughly 1/3 of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes of food or 57% of all the calories harvested each year.

The magnitude and cause of the problem vary by region. In the developing world, per capita food waste equates to 6 – 11 kg/year. Most of this waste occurs at the start of the supply chain due to inefficient harvesting, inadequate local transportation, and poor infrastructure (e.g. a lack of refrigerating facilities). In the developed world, however, per capita waste equates to a shocking 95 – 115 kg/year. Waste occurs primarily at the end of the supply chain, as supermarkets “often reject entire crops of perfectly edible fruit and vegetables…because they do not meet exacting marketing standards”. Consumers also purchase “excessive quantities” of perishable foods and dispose of food early due to “confusing” food labels.

The human impact of such waste is considerable. After all, about 1 billion people globally (or 1 in 7) continue to suffer from malnutrition or starvation. According to the Feeding 5000 Campaign, the vast quantity of wasted food “would be enough to satisfy the hunger of every one of them”.

But “wasting food means losing not only life-supporting nutrition”. It also mean losing “precious resources, including land, water and energy”. In fact, producing wasted food requires 28% of global farmland – approximately the size of Mexico. It uses enough freshwater to meet the domestic needs of 9 billion people (200L each/day). Furthermore, since each calorie of food takes an average of 7 – 10 calories to produce, it consumes a significant portion of the global energy budget. This, in turn, generates 6-10% of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to “to unnecessary global warming”.

To compound the problem, the United Nations projects that the global population will reach 9.5 billion by 2075 (based on mid-range forecasts). This represents over 2 billion more mouths to feed. Furthermore, “substantial changes are anticipated in the wealth, calorific intake, and dietary preferences of people in developing countries”. Hence, the demand for food—particularly resource intensive food like meat—is expected to increase.

Fortunately, awareness of global food waste is also growing and key players are starting to act. The United Nations, for example, has launched the Think.Eat.Save program, which works to galvanize global action and exchange ideas. Farmers are donating “edible but imperfect-looking” crops to local food charities, such as City Harvest. Food processors are finding innovative ways to salvage previously rejected foods, such as “making baby carrots out of carrots too bent to meet retail standards”. And grocery stores like Waitrose and Sainsbury are cutting the prices of expiring goods, donating leftovers to charities, and sending remaining food waste to bio-plants for electricity generation.

Such efforts offer real hope of solving the global food problem. In fact, the United Nations reports that “cutting the rate of food loss and waste in half by 2050 would close 20% of the (expected) food gap.”

To learn more about the food waste problem, please click here. To help reduce hunger, please donate to one of our partner food banks: Friends of Saint Joseph’s Food Pantry, Operation: Sack Lunch, the Oregon Food Bank, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, the Vermont Food Bank, and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

Flickr photo credit: Kabsic Park


Op4G Approaches 50,000 Meals Donated to Partner Food Bank!

holiday mealOver the next few weeks, America will celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. But not all Americans will enjoy a holiday feast. In fact, around 48 million Americans will have less money available for food costs.

Why? On November 1, the temporary expansion of the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) expired. Passed as part of the 2009 stimulus package, the $45.2 billion expansion raised monthly benefits (a.k.a. food stamps) to an average of $133/person. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, these benefits have now dropped by approximately 7% or $10/person.

Furthermore, as noted in a previous blog, congress is finalizing the farm bill. As part of the bill, the Senate has approved a $4.5 billion cut over 10 years to SNAP. The House has gone even further, voting to cut $39 billion over 10 years (primarily by raising qualification criteria). This would eliminate food stamps for 3.8 million Americans.

Second Harvest Food Bank Banner
To counter the cuts to SNAP, many are increasing support to local food banks. Just last week, Op4G sent a check for $4,519 to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. The check raises Op4G’s total donations to the non-profit to $24,544! As each dollar can provide two meals, this equates to nearly 50,000 meals! Second Harvest is moved by the donation and applauds the Op4G model as “one more easy way” for supporters to “provide meals to their neighbors”.

In addition to Second Harvest, Op4G also donates to the San Francisco Food Bank ($19,856 to date), the Oregon Food Bank, the Vermont Food Bank, OPERATION: Sack Lunch, New Hampshire Catholic Charities, CUMAC and the Friends of Saint Joseph’s Food Pantry. To help reduce hunger this holiday season, please complete Op4G surveys on behalf of these non-profits today!

Flickr Photo Credit

Food for Thought: 1 in 6 Americans Faces Hunger

4As you sit down to dinner tonight, consider this disturbing statistic: 1 in 6 Americans is struggling to purchase food. In other words, approximately 50 million Americans are living in food insecure households—including over 16 million children.

This represents a considerable increase since 2007, when 36.2 million Americans faced food insecurity. Many experts blame the so-called “Great Recession”. According to one report, “The deteriorating economic climate was accompanied by… evidence of a dramatic increase in the number of individuals struggling with food insecurity”. The number has remained high as the economy has yet to fully recover: the unemployment rate (7.3%) is 2.7 percentage points higher and the median household income ($52,100) is 6% lower than in 2007.

Other possible factors include an increase in food prices. Despite the recession, the Consumer Price Index for food items rose by approximately 21% (or an average of 2.8% annually) from 2007 to 2013. Furthermore, shifting demographics in the US have increased the size of vulnerable populations, including senior citizens and single-mother households.

Fortunately, there are over 250 food banks in the US working to alleviate hunger. Of these, approximately 200 belong to the Feeding America network. Feeding America supplies more than 3 billion pounds of food annually to 37 million Americans, including 14 million children. Thus, 1 in 8 Americans relies on Feeding America for their grocery needs.

And soon, Feeding America may be needed more than ever. Recently, the House of Representatives passed the latest version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 3102). While the bill boosts funding to agribusiness, it cuts $39 billion over 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. According to Feeding America, this would result in more than 1.5 billion meals lost in the 2014 fiscal year. The Senate version of the bill also reduces funding to SNAP, albeit by a considerably lower amount.

Please consider supporting one of Op4G’s partner food banks: the Oregon Food Bank, the Vermont Food Bank, the Second Harvest Food Bank, Operation Sack Lunch, or the Friends of Saint Joseph Food Pantry. Please donate funds and non-perishable foods, or complete Op4G surveys on their behalf.

Flickr Photo Credit: jeffreyw