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Starbucks Food Recovery Program Helps Bridge Hunger Gap In San Diego

Photo credit: Kris Arciaga

A container of sliced fruit is just one of a number of items that Starbucks donates to feed the hungry in San Diego, June 28, 2017.

When people shop at the Corner Market in Kearny Mesa, they get help from a personal assistant. Like market volunteer Andi Furman.

On a recent Thursday morning, she helped Dianne White and her caretaker, Nathan Morin.

"Do you want me to take the cart for you?" Furman asked.

"Sure!" White responded.

The Corner Market is a food pantry. It is operated by the nonprofit Jewish Family Service.

The trio started at the canned food section. White picked out some canned tomatoes and green beans.

After a few minutes, they moved onto to the produce. Furman showed White some locally-grown cucumbers.

“How many 'cukes' would you like? You can have as many as your heart desires," she said.

Lastly, White stopped at a cooler filled with food from Starbucks.

There were stacks of sliced fruit and vegetable trays, salads, sandwiches, wraps, you name it.

“Oh my gosh, I love it all. I would say, the salad is a good — I’ll have like one salad,” White said, her face lighting up.

White topped off her shopping cart with a bunch of Starbucks food.

White is trying to beat back endometrial and breast cancer. She can no longer work, so she depends on food from the Corner Market.

White said getting items from Starbucks is a treat.

“I love Starbucks," she said. "And that’s one of those special things that I’m not able to get normally. And I just go nuts here. I’ve got my favorites, and yeah, it’s really neat.”

Foodshare program

Starbucks employees came up with the idea of the Foodshare program.

Starbucks Manager Jordan Jellison said he and his colleagues hated to throw perfectly good food away every day.

“Everyone knows someone that at some time, struggled to put food on the table," he said. "So that really hits home. It’s a human issue that we’re not comfortable with. And that’s why Starbucks launched this program, so that we could feel comfortable doing our jobs every day, and do something great at the same time.”

Starbucks asked the hunger relief agency Feeding America for help in fleshing out the idea.

The nonprofit turned to their subsidiary Feeding San Diego to come up with a way to collect and distribute Starbucks’ unsold food.

How it works

Here is the plan they developed:

Every night of the week after closing time, refrigerated trucks pull up to Starbucks locations all over San Diego.

The drivers pick up bags of soon-to-be-expired food that store managers set aside.

Drivers check the temperature of the food to make sure it has been stored properly. Then they weigh the items, put them in their truck, and move onto the next Starbucks.

At the end of the night, drivers drop the food off at the warehouses of six different hunger relief agencies. The agencies then distribute the food to people in need.

Vince Hall, CEO of Feeding San Diego, said they launched the Foodshare program in October 2015.

Taking off

“The first year, we piloted it in 30 stores," he said. "It has grown rapidly now where we are in 187 Starbucks locations across San Diego County, every night of the year, and now Starbucks has announced recently they’re going to expand this program nationwide.”

Starbucks pays for the vans, the gas and helps to cover the cost of training the drivers.

Hall said Starbucks is the epitome of a good corporate citizen.

“They are working with us every step of the way to take responsibility for what would be food waste, and turning it into hunger relief," Hall said.

A great opportunity

Starbucks now lets Feeding San Diego use the vans to retrieve food from other restaurant chains and retailers.

Hall said that opens up a great opportunity.

“At the end of the day, we have enough food right here in the county to end hunger," Hall said. "The problem is 40 percent of that food is wasted, it goes to the landfill. So to solve hunger in San Diego County, we don’t need to bring more food into our county, we need to stop wasting the food that’s already here.”

The Foodshare program has collected and distributed more than 320,000 pounds of Starbucks food. That food has nourished a lot of San Diegans, including Dianne White.

White said if she had to pick just one item from Starbucks, she’d have a tough time.

“I really don’t have a favorite, 'cause I love all of them," she said, smiling. "Even the little desserts that I shouldn’t have.”

Starbucks Food Recovery Program Helps Bridge Hunger Gap In San Diego


Vince Hall, CEO, Feeding San Diego


Every day in San Diego, restaurants throw out an enormous amount of food. Starbucks is bucking that trend.

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