How Starbucks FoodShare is Helping Feeding America Grow and Learn

February 9, 2017
by Diane Letson

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

When I think of how the Starbucks FoodShare program began, that’s the quote that comes to mind — because together, Starbucks and Feeding America are changing the world, one day, one community and one prepared meal at a time. We’re doing it through Starbucks FoodShare, a new, innovative program that enables Feeding America to rescue unsold food from Starbucks locations each night to stock the shelves of food pantries and help people facing hunger.

When designing the FoodShare program, Starbucks determined that Feeding America could receive larger food donations if we picked them up at night instead of during typical working hours — as we’ve done since 1979. Food banks could have access to fresh, unsold packaged food each night, giving us an opportunity to rescue more food from waste and feed more people. So working with Starbucks, we adapted our approach, recognizing that this was a special opportunity to dramatically increase our food donations in partnership with a visionary food-rescue partner.

For Josh Seggelke, store donation coordinator at Feeding America network food bank Food Bank of the Rockies, supporting seven-day-a-week pickups during off-hours was a new challenge to take on. To maximize food donations and keep operational costs low, Josh hired hard-working night drivers to pick up the donations and build relationships with Starbucks partners (employees) at each location. Josh says that the fun part of this program was creating something out of thin air. The overnight pickups were daunting at first, but the simplicity of the program — in and out of each Starbucks location in five minutes — made this a no-brainer opportunity for Food Bank of the Rockies.

Jason Hatcher, food sourcing manager at Feeding America network food bank Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, says that the program has made it possible to empower local food pantries. Instead of Second Harvest picking up the food donations from Starbucks locations and passing them onto food pantries, the food pantries themselves pick up the donations at night using refrigerated vans. Empowering food pantries to pick up donations from Starbucks also helps the food bank fulfill its mission by facilitating fast turnaround of perishable products. With this partnership, a food pantry can pick up sandwiches at night and then serve them the following morning.

“The Starbucks FoodShare program has helped us provide fresh, nutritious food to the hungry,” says Nicole Suydam, chief executive officer of Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. “We are very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this innovative program.”

Starbucks FoodShare is pushing the Feeding America network to pause and challenge our established business parameters and practices. It’s energizing to think about how we might replicate this business model with other food establishments to provide even more meals to people struggling with hunger.

*Diane Letson is the director of retail partnerships at Feeding America.