Donating Product to Second Harvest is a Win-Win

It’s a win-win-win. What better way to move unsalables, get a tax benefit and help hungry people?

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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Every year, billions of pounds of food go to waste in America. Every year, millions of people go hungry in America. Perhaps those are two problems in search of the same solution.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita brought to the forefront one of the greatest win-win situations in the food industry. America’s Second Harvest since 1979 has been a clearinghouse for food that otherwise may get thrown away. A month or two ago, first in New Orleans and Mississippi and then on the Texas coast, it became a critical connection for those who are temporarily hungry. But year-round it is a practical connection between America’s food processing industry and America’s hungry.

America's Second Harvest is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the U.S. In that first year of operation, the Chicago-based charity distributed 2.5 million pounds of food to a network of 13 food banks. Today, the national network secures and distributes nearly two billion pounds of food and grocery products to more than 200 regional food banks and relief organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

The underlying principle of America’s Second Harvest is feeding our nation’s hungry by reducing food waste. Second Harvest’s network collects food and grocery products – from food processors, retailers and distributors as well as restaurants and other foodservice entities – and distributes it to its member food banks and food rescue organizations. Those agencies then allocate food and grocery products to approximately 50,000 programs that operate more than 94,000 feeding agencies nationwide.

As our story —"Processors answer the clarion call" — shows, many food processors responded to the need through America’s Second Harvest, relying on its established and efficient distribution system to get needed food to the areas hit by the hurricanes. It was a heart-warming response to this sad though temporary crisis.

The story shouldn’t end there. Those displaced by the hurricanes eventually will get their lives back. But poverty and hunger in America are perennial problems.

Year-round, Second Harvest collects products that may be overproduced, coming close to code-date, produced slightly off-spec but still wholesome, or in packaging in which the printing is a bit off – or from a promotion or tie-in that under-delivered. Donors are held harmless by both Second Harvest contracts and the federal Good Samaritan Law. Plus, you get a tax write-off.

Whatever you have, Second Harvest will pick it up, store it and distribute it. Its regional distribution centers adhere to industry standard for safe food handling. Each has refrigerator trucks and an average of 30,000 cubic feet of refrigerated and frozen storage space. Second Harvest can arrange the pick-up in various ways. You can see its volunteers rushing through Chicago’s McCormick Place to salvage leftover food products at the end of every Food Marketing Institute Supermarket Show in May.

I’ve known a couple of companies that have staged highly successful product promotions that included a clear and public tie-in with donations to Second Harvest. Who better to feed the nation’s hungry than the nation’s food industry? It’s a powerful and positive marketing message. Most of these tie-ins went beyond product donations, as Second Harvest also needs operating funds to get those products where they are needed.

Second Harvest’s web site (www.secondharvest.org) lists 62 regular corporate donors. It’s a who’s-who list of large and small processors in the food industry with such names as Tyson, Kraft, PepsiCo, Nestle and ConAgra – all five of the top names on our annual Top 100© list of North America’s largest processors.

Space doesn’t allow us to list all the companies. But if your company name isn’t on the Second Harvest list, it’s time to get on there. Manufacturers who would like to join the Hurricane Katrina relief effort or establish a partnership with Second Harvest should call the national office at 800-771-2303. Just remember, the need for food didn’t begin or end with these twin hurricanes. Think of America’s Second Harvest year-round.

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