Editor's Plate: Feeding America Needs Your Surplus Products

Nov. 8, 2021
It's a win-win-win: Move unsalables, get a tax benefit and help hungry people.

Maybe you're reading this just before Thanksgiving; maybe a little later, as the December holidays approach. Whichever, it's a time for food, family and thankfulness. Most of us have a lot, but there are many, even in America and Canada, who have little.

Feeding a growing world population and food waste have become hot topics throughout the bigger food & beverage industry recently. While it's complex to estimate global demand and population trends 30 years out against current and projected supply and what your company can do to make a dent in the apparent shortage, there are much simpler facts that require little or no math skills.

Every year, billions of pounds of food go to waste in America. Every year, millions of people go hungry in America. Those sound like two problems in search of the same solution. And one good solution for both is Feeding America.

Feeding America (formerly known as America’s Second Harvest) is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the U.S. Last year, the charity distributed 4 billion lbs. of packaged groceries and 1.8 billion lbs. of fresh produce to 200 regional food banks and relief organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. That meant more than 573 million meals to 40 million food-insecure people, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors.

The simple principle of Feeding America is getting food to our nation’s hungry by reducing food waste, much of it from food & beverage processors like you. 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. Those agencies then allocate food and grocery products to approximately 60,000 partner food pantries and meal programs nationwide.

At least occasionally, you probably have products that may be overproduced, coming close to code-date, made 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's passed. The stuff may be worthless, maybe even a disposal expense, to you but they're all perfect donations for Feeding America. Donors are held harmless by both Feeding America contracts and the federal Good Samaritan Law. Plus, you get a tax write-off.

Probably whatever you have is useful, and Feeding America will pick it up, store it and distribute it. Its regional distribution centers adhere to industry standards for safe food handling. Each has refrigerator trucks and refrigerated and frozen storage space.

Surplus food is great, and it's a triple-win for you: The disposal of surplus product, a tax benefit and a way to help hungry people. But Feeding America also needs cash to put gas in all those trucks and to pay the electric bills for those refrigerated warehouses.

Here's a bit of self-promotion and a preview: Next month's magazine features Mondelez as our Processor of the Year, and that company's Ritz brand, for example, has pledged $1 million to help fight food insecurity for children across America.

Feeding America's web site ( lists 17 regular corporate donors. It’s a who’s-who list of the larger processors in the food & beverage industry. There's Coca-Cola, Conagra, General Mills, Hormel, Kraft Heinz and PepsiCo in a top-tier group and right behind them Bimbo Bakeries USA, Campbell Soup, Cargill, Dean Foods, Kellogg, Mondelez, Niagara Bottling, Post Holdings, Smithfield, Tyson and Unilever.

That's a lot of big names, but there's plenty of room – and appreciation – for smaller companies.

If your company name isn’t on the Feeding America list, it’s time to get on there. Manufacturers who would like to join should email [email protected] or call the national office at 800-771-2303. And while this time of year is a good time to think of feeding the hungry, the need is there year-round.

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