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Solution to food waste: Food banks rescue millions of pounds of food from local grocery stores

Posted at 4:22 AM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 09:30:37-05

Making sure food doesn't go to waste: that's the goal of a partnership between local grocery stores and food banks in the Valley.

Five to six days a week, employees with United Food Bank pull up to stores, filling up their trucks with bread, baked goods, fruits, and vegetables that remain untouched on store shelves.

"Still perfectly good to eat, they're just not the first thing a customer will pick when they go to a beautiful pile of produce," said Marc Rosso, Food Resource Manager for United Food Bank.

The recycling company RTS estimates about 30% of all food in American grocery stores is thrown away. That's 16 billion pounds every year. But since launching the grocery rescue program in 2013, Rosso says they've taken 6.5 million pounds of food yearly from stores and given it to people at local food banks. About 960,000 pounds of that came from Sprouts Farmers Market stores alone. The food is often served to food bank customers the same day.

"They're looking at the inventory that we have. If they have a concern that we're not going to have a product move by that date, then we're working proactively with our food bank partners to have that food leave our store and go out into the food banks," said Lyndsey Waugh, Executive Director of the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation.

With inflation at a 40-year high, CEO of United Food Bank Dave Richins says it's become increasingly difficult to buy products.

"It's tough because of the supply chain stuff, what we'd see in four to six weeks takes eight to 10 weeks and it costs 30-40% more," Richins said. "So as a food bank, when we're in the market of buying food, it's a scary time for us right now. So, fortunately, our grocery rescue numbers are way up, due to the generosity of our grocery stores."

United Food Bank works with 150 different agency partners. Richins says they are always looking for ways to reach even more people in need.

"We're always looking for food bank partners to come join United Food Bank to serve the community and come to the grocery stores to pick up some of this food," Richins said.