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 (feedingamerica.org). At this time of the year especially, it’s time to count our blessings and be thankful for the largesse we put on our individual and corporate tables; and to share the wealth with those less fortunate.
“In America, we have enough food to feed every man, woman and child, yet 72 billion pounds of safe, edible food goes to waste each year,” the group’s website explains.
“In fact, an estimated 25-40 percent of food grown, processed and transported in the U.S. will never be consumed. And more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in municipal solid waste.”
The leading domestic hunger-relief charity is no stranger to larger food and beverage processors. But if you’re not familiar with Feeding America or already on its long list of food and beverage-processing partners, it’s time to get on board. The knowledge that you’re doing good is paramount and should be enough to pull you in … but frankly there are considerable tax benefits, as well.
Feeding America’s mission is to feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of food banks and to engage the entire country in the fight to end hunger. The idea began in the late 1960s when a retired businessman, who already had been volunteering at a soup kitchen, noticed a desperate mother rummaging through grocery store garbage bins to find food for her children. Food “waste” is kind of a fact of life, but why wait until it’s thrown out and growing unsafe in the hot sun? Why not collect it at its source and distribute it in an orderly and safe manner?
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 food banks and food rescue organizations.
It operates 200 food banks (essentially warehouses/distribution centers), which then allocate groceries and other products to some 61,000 local agencies (food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency feeding sites, etc.). The group annually feeds 46 million people at risk of hunger, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors.
The deal for food and beverage processors is this: Feeding America will collect your products that may be overproduced, coming close to code-date, produced slightly off-spec but are still wholesome, or in packaging in which the printing is a bit off – or from a promotion or tie-in that has expired. 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 may have seen 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.
There is 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. So while there is the unique opportunity for Feeding America to take food you might otherwise discard, also consider a cash donation.As I said, many food & beverage processors already are among Feeding America’s partners. At the very top are Conagra Brands, General Mills, Kraft Heinz and PepsiCo.
Also Campbell Soup, Cargill, DanoneWave, Dean Foods, Del Monte, Flowers Foods, French’s, Hillshire Brands, Kellogg, Mondelez, Nestle and Niagara Bottling. And Coca-Cola, Mars Wrigley, Perdue, Post Foods, Smithfield, J.M. Smucker, Tyson, Unilever. Also Barilla America, Cott Corp., Hormel, Lamb Weston, Land O’Lakes, Nature’s Bakery, Red Gold and Schwan’s. Kudos to you all.
Whatever your size, if your company’s name is not on that list, get involved by calling the national office at 800-771-2303 or visit www.feedingamerica.org.