Stop the Waste. Ask Grocery Stores to #DonateNotDump

Every year in the United States we produce enough food to feed nearly two entire American populations, yet 50 million Americans go hungry. The face of hunger is not what you may expect and it is not the face of laziness. It is often your neighbor who seems to be doing just fine, a child too hungry to concentrate on their homework, or the elders who go unnoticed sitting at home without the money to purchase food. All of these people are going hungry while grocery stores alone throw away enough food to feed every single American in need. Together we CAN stop the waste and feed our fellow Americans. This three-minute video shows the problem:

The call to action is simple. Ask grocery stores to #DonateNotDump. With that being said, you should have basic knowledge to relay to grocery stores so that you can be affective.

Our message to the grocery stores is that we want them to stop dumping their excess food and start donating it to non-profits so it can be distributed to people in need. Grocery stores may tell you that they can’t donate because they fear liability. This is either a lie or ignorance. Grocery stores are protected from lawsuits by the Good Samaritan Food Act, which was passed in 1996. This act Protects businesses from liability when they donate to a non-profit organization and protects them from civil and criminal liability should the product donated later cause harm to the recipient. Furthermore a University of Arkansas study has shown that not a single lawsuit has ever been made against a grocery store that has donated food to a food rescue program. The law is on the side of the grocery stores to donate. No grocery store with true knowledge and honesty can use the excuse of liability.

Thousands of food rescue programs exist across the United States that will actually go to the store and pick the food up. Examples of this include Feeding AmericaCity Harvest, Second Helpings, Philabundance, and Boulder Food Rescue. Grocery stores just need to pick up the phone and call the local food rescue program, food bank, food pantry, or soup kitchen.

The good news is that thousands of grocery stores ARE donating food to these non-profits and these programs are feeding millions of people across the United States. Both huge chains like Trader Joe’s and Wal-Mart and single location rural stores have proven that it can be done. However, all together grocery stores are doing only a very small fraction of what can be done. We need more stores to start a food donation program and we need the ones who already have a program to donate more of their food. I’ve witnessed many stores to claim they have an excellent food donation program and then found their dumpsters to be full of food. So don’t just stop talking when they say they donate, make sure they are donating everything they can.

This may take a little effort for the grocery store but the effort is minimal compared to the gain for humanity and for their community. If the store really cares about their community then they will donate their excess food. It is as simple as that. Some states even offer tax deductible donations and all stores will save money on their dumpster fees. Many stores are finding donating their food to even be a profitable venture versus throwing it in a dumpster.

You can reach out to grocery stores by talking to the manager next time you are at the store, starting a conversation with them on social media by sharing this video with them, calling them on the telephone, or emailing them. Simply by putting pressure on one store to donate you could be responsible for hundreds or even thousands of people being fed. Imagine the satisfaction of knowing you’d helped so many people in need.

Besides asking grocery stores to donate you can also ask if they have a composting program. The food that is no longer suitable for people should be composted or fed to livestock. There is no good reason for food to be in the dumpster and go to the landfill. You can also encourage them to handle their inventory better by marking prices down when food is nearing sell-by dates, using ugly fruit in their juices and deli food, and ordering reasonable amounts rather than huge surpluses.

To lead by example, make sure that you are not wasting food yourself and you are sharing with people in need. Another great thing you can do to get involved is volunteer with your local food rescue program, food bank, or soup kitchen. Most of these can absolutely use your help. Ask them what they need help with or ask if you can volunteer as outreach to get them donated food that would have otherwise ended up in the dumpster.

I believe that we are at a tipping point for ending food waste and with citizen action we can solve this. The excitement inside me tells me that my generation will drastically reduce food waste and hunger in our time.

Start by asking your grocery store to #DonateNotDump!

Photo by K.C. Alfred

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For a deeper look into food waste, detailed information on the problem and solutions, how to get involved, food rescue programs, dumpster diving, and more go to Rob’s Food Waste Activism and Dumpster Diving Resource Guide.