Finding a Destination for Unused Food

Feeding America can help c-store operators donate leftover food to help feed hungry Americans. 

August 25, 2021

Convenience Matters Episode 298 Food Donations

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—More and more these days, the hot commodity at convenience stores is foodservice, including grab-and-go solutions and fresh prepared items. But with the increase in on-site foodservice comes a dilemma—what to do with the unused, but still edible food?

“When a lot of people think about what to donate to their local food pantry or to the food bank, automatically cans and boxes spring to mind,” said Danielle Lawson, account manager for Feeding America’s retail partnerships team, during this week’s Convenience Matters, “Resolving Food Waste as a Business Solution.”

“Those are typically the things that had a longer shelf life and wouldn’t go to waste in someone’s home. … Since about 2009, our work really has changed a lot, and we’ve focused a lot more on perishable items, more nutrition-focused items like produce and vegetables, dairy products and meat because we want to address holistically the need.”

Feeding America has worked over the past several years to build the capacity for food pantries to accept more perishable items. “Most of the way that we work with a lot of our donation partners is through a program called MealConnect, which is an app,” Lawson said. “Essentially what happens is that [a retailer posts available food] and an algorithm [finds] the nearest partner available to pick that donation up. It can be posted and picked up in the span of an hour.”

The beauty of MealConnect is that retailers have a way to donate any amount of surplus food and drinks quickly, thus eliminating the need to schedule pickups in advance, although those can still be done. “The tagline that we have is that it is ‘food recovery simplified.’ So, it’s really just about … posting with your ZIP code and choosing a couple of categories,” she said.

Last year alone, Feeding America members distributed more than 1.8 billion pounds of fresh produce. “We try to propose to our partners that we are a business solution in addition to being just the right thing to do,” Lawson said. “But it does help employee morale to know that they [aren’t] dumping food that they know their neighbors, the people they know in their community [could use].”

Convenience retailers have long been involved with meal and food giveaways and donations to support organizations like Feeding America to fight food insecurity in their communities. C-stores that have already worked with Feeding America include Maverik, Casey’s, 7-Eleven and the EG Group (Cumberland Farms).

If your company is already working with MealConnect to fight food waste, you can tell the story to your customers in-store and on social media with these editable downloads. For more information, download the MealConnect one-pager (PDF).

Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 290 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at Episodes have been downloaded more than a quarter million times by listeners around the world.

Don’t forget to register to attend the 2021 NACS Show October 5-8 at McCormick Place in Chicago and take advantage of the education sessions on building strong community relations, including the sessions Building Customer Loyalty Through Employee Culture & Engagement on October 5 and Stronger Together: The Business Case for DEI on October 4.