Starbucks, the coffee shop known for it’s six dollar drinks, is often seen as a sign of materialism and capitalism. However, Starbucks actually has several charitable programs in place, and the company even helps to pay for qualifying employees’ college tuition. They have recently announced a new plan that will work to tackle the issue of domestic hunger among the United States impoverished citizens.
Starbucks has branched out into providing ready made meals that customers can buy, and they have decided to donate all of their food that does not sell to food banks across the nation. This year, they plan to give roughly five million meals to food banks in 7,600 locations. They hope to expand the number of donated meals to 50 million a year in the next five years. Jane Maly, the brand manager for food sold by Starbucks, said “When we thought about our vast store footprint across the U.S. and the impact we could make, it put a fire under us to figure out how to donate this food instead of throwing it away.”
The company’s main difficulty was finding a way to preserve the food while they were delivering it to food banks. They do not want to donate it if it may still sell, but neither do they want to be giving spoiled food to the homeless. There is also a great deal of legal liability involved in donating prepared food to the people who need help. These concerns have stopped other corporations from starting a similar plan in the past, but hopefully, Starbucks’ example will be followed by others soon.
Most of the food sold at Starbucks is refrigerated, individually packaged sandwiches, so they are relatively easy to store and transport. Local food banks will be able to pick up unsold sandwiches and directly deliver them to those in need. However, this donation process is not as simple for heated food that is unpackaged. Many charities risk lawsuits or other punishments if they serve food that makes people sick, so they are often unable to accept donations from restaurants and hotels with extra food.
Due to all of the logistical difficulties, many stores just throw out prepared food instead of donating it at the end of their working day. The Natural Resources Defense Council has calculated that roughly $165 billion worth of food is wasted this year. Since over 48 million Americans live in homes without enough food, this amount of waste is saddening. Starbucks’ decision is a step in the right direction for solving the nation’s food shortage issues.
The president for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Michael Flood, spoke out in support of Starbucks’ donation plan. Though it will not singlehandedly stop hunger in the United States, it may raise awareness among other large food suppliers. If Starbucks can show that it is possible to donate leftovers without causing issues for the corporation, others may join them in the fight against food waste and hunger.