Grocery Rescue Program Saves Food and Restores Hope

Grocery RescueDid you know that nearly half of the food in grocery stores in America ends up in the trash if it’s not sold in time or isn’t “perfect” for the shelves? Our local Grocery Rescue program is saving healthy food destined for the dumpster and sharing it with our neighbors in need instead.

The program is a partnership between local grocery retailers, the Food Bank, and partner agencies in the Second Harvest network. While the formal relationship was formed at the national level with Target, Wal-Mart, and SaveMart, we’re seeing the “win-win” here in our community.  Grocery stores get excess product off of their hands while saving on garbage disposal fees and receiving a tax incentive, plus the food donations help Second Harvest diversify the menu, which also includes non-perishables from community drives and the food we purchase to ensure balanced offerings for local families.

Target food rescue

Adrian, a Target employee, inspects a steak on its way to being “rescued.”

Dry goods and bakery items form a majority of the rescued food, but recently we have also received prized meat and dairy donations.  Meat is actually one of the easiest things to donate because it can be frozen immediately.

What would happen to the food if it wasn’t rescued? Most likely it would decompose in landfills instead of being served on the tables of children, seniors, and families who desperately need it.

On a recent Friday at the Target in Morgan Hill, a volunteer from St. Joseph’s Family Center in Gilroy (a Food Bank partner agency) picked up a diverse array of items. He pulled his truck up to the loading dock where Target staff prepared plastic bins and carts tagged with slightly dented items and produce that was still perfectly edible but misshapen or spotted. Everything was scanned and recorded while honoring strict food safety guidelines.  We are very careful not to leave perishable items outside a refrigerator or freezer beyond the acceptable time before being stored or distributed.

Dave from St. Joseph’s completes the necessary paperwork before driving away with a truckload of rescued groceries.

St. Joseph’s staff says, “We are very happy with the quality donations that we are seeing! Our families are so appreciative. We are now getting requests for meat items and it makes us ecstatic that we can fulfill these requests because of the Grocery Rescue program.”

Joan Sanborn, Food Resources Representative at Second Harvest, says, “It’s our hope in the future for each store to donate to its fullest potential – everyone’s excited to continue expanding.” Volunteers are critical to the success of the program as they pick up the food, make sure it is handled properly, and get it safely stored to be handed out as soon as possible. If you’re interested in getting involved, please contact groceryrescue@shfb.org.

Another hurdle to the success of this program is that many of our partner agencies do not have reliable transportation to pick up the food donations. If you or your company has a spare van, please contact groceryrescue@shfb.org for information on making a tax-deductible vehicle donation.

Thanks to the partnership of local grocers, we look forward to continually growing the Food Rescue program to reduce food waste and increase the amount of high-quality food on the plates of local families.

donated cans

The majority of grocery rescue items are dry goods like these canned items from a local Target shelf. They might be dented or approaching expiration but still perfectly healthy and nutritious.

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