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.
I admit I’ve used those lines before, but they still perfectly sum up the unique positioning of Feeding America (http://feedingamerica.org). The nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity is no stranger to all the larger food and beverage processors. Feeding America’s mission is to feed America's hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and to engage our country in the fight to end hunger.
The organization has broadened its approach since I first became familiar with it many years ago. Back then it was Second Harvest, and then America’s Second Harvest, those terms reflecting its original goal of feeding the hungry by reducing food waste. Then and now, Feeding America’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. It operates 200 food banks (essentially warehouses/distribution centers) that then allocate groceries and other products to some 61,000 local agencies (food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency feeding sites, etc.).
Nowadays, there’s considerable effort at involving individuals and community organizations in food drives, as well as collecting money – despite a lot of volunteers, there is considerable cost in moving tons of food from where it’s surplus to where it’s needed.
The deal for food & beverage processors is this: Year-round, Feeding America 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 Feeding America contracts and the federal Good Samaritan Law. Plus, you get a tax write-off.
Whatever you have, Feeding America will pick it up, store it and distribute it. You can see its volunteers rushing through exhibition halls to salvage leftover products at the end of many food industry trade shows. Its regional distribution centers adhere to industry standards for safe food handling. Each has refrigerator trucks and refrigerated and frozen storage space.
Many food companies have staged successful product promotions that included a public tie-in to Feeding America. Who better to feed the nation’s hungry than the nation’s food industry? It’s a powerful and positive marketing message.
Many food & beverage processors are among Feeding America’s “Leadership Partners” – companies that, over the past five years, have made significant philanthropic investments, including aggregate contributions or commitments of $10 million or more, donations of 100 million lbs. or more of food and grocery products or combined gifts of funds, food and grocery product at this level. They are ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods and Kraft Foods Foundation, Nestlé and PepsiCo. There are, of course, many others that give. Make sure your company’s name is somewhere on that list. Get involved by calling the national office at 800-771-2303.