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Sharing an Impact: Food Rescue in the Fight for the Environment

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Ross Anderson, Director, Social Impact and Public Policy at Starbucks Canada

Almost two-thirds of the food produced in Canada is thrown away, and of that, one-third is perfectly edible. This fact may not be well known outside our industry, but it was very clear to the people who work at our more than 1,100 Starbucks locations across Canada. Our partners (a term Starbucks uses for all employees) recognized that at the end of the day, good food was being thrown away and ending up in a landfill. 

Together, we knew we needed a solution to waste less, recover more and do better. And so, we began the process of creating a program that would allow for perishable food to be safely donated at a scale that would include every Starbucks store across Canada. In collaboration with Second Harvest’s online food donation platform and a group of Toronto store managers, we piloted our FoodShare program in 2019. With their enthusiastic support and input, the program expanded across the Greater Toronto Area and, as of this year, it has rolled out to every province in Canada. That scale and success wouldn’t have been possible without the support and commitment of our store managers and partners.

The premise of FoodShare is simple: all food reaching its best before date is safely sorted and packed by Starbucks partners, then picked up in our store by a local community organization that can then distribute it to the people it serves. It’s a win-win: the food rescued can be enjoyed by our neighbours, and it’s kept out of a landfill where it would generate harmful methane gas.

FoodShare is just one way Starbucks Canada is working to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 50 per cent. It’s a cornerstone of our 2030 environmental commitments. Last year, our global CEO Kevin Johnson explained the decision in simple terms: “Our aspiration is to become resource positive — storing more carbon than we emit, eliminating waste, and providing cleaner freshwater than we use. This aspiration is grounded in the Starbucks Mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, and one neighbourhood at a time. By embracing a longer-term economic, equitable and planetary value proposition for our company, we will create greater value for all stakeholders.”  

Today, we are proud to have recovered more than 500,000 pounds of good food for delivery to 560 non-profit organizations across the country. The number of community organizations we supported has nearly tripled since April of this year and is set to continue rising as the program grows. By rescuing this food, Starbucks partners and Second Harvest have helped prevent more than 1.3 million pounds of greenhouse gasses from entering the atmosphere. 

The other side of the environmental coin is of course the impact that food rescue initiatives can have on society. COVID-19 has strained Canadian families everywhere, and more of our neighbours than ever face food insecurity. Organizations on the front line of this crisis, like Bethany Chapel in Calgary and Lionhearts in Kingston, are also stretched thin, so partnerships like FoodShare have become critical to helping them to meet the growing need. 

Lionheart’s founder Travis Blackmore shared the difference it can make: “Without Starbucks, without major partners, we wouldn’t have anything to give. So it really goes back to the heart of those partners, that they would trust us with what they have. And then we turn around and make sure we sort of hold the backs up of those on the front line.”

We believe there is potential for local, community-based food rescue to grow, especially in collaboration with organizations like Second Harvest, so that all of us in the foodservice industry have an opportunity to do better than sending surplus food to landfills.

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