It’s 5 o’clock in the morning when Food Bank driver Manny deftly parks his Sprinter van at the curb in front of a Starbucks store.
In a couple of hours, this store will be teeming with early-morning coffee seekers. But for now, it’s just Manny and his partner, Max, doing their nightly pick up of Starbucks’ unsold food.
Most nights, Manny and Max rescue about three- to four-thousand pounds of unsold food from 69 Starbucks stores. It’s all part of FoodShare, Starbucks’ growing, nationwide program that donates unsold food to Feeding America® member food banks, which is ultimately distributed to neighbors in need.
Thanks to FoodShare, our Food Bank is able to gather and distribute food from Starbucks’ high quality, nutritious Mercato line, including salads, wraps and sandwiches. On this particular shift, Manny and Max collect close to 3-thousand pounds of food. This year, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank expects to rescue more than 400,000 pounds of food through FoodShare.
Manny and Max have a final stop before they can call it a day – er…night! They transport the Starbucks bounty directly to our nonprofit partners at St. Anthony’s Dining Room, which accepts FoodShare deliveries on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The other 3 days, this food is taken to Glide Memorial Church. For these partners, the benefit is clear: Starbucks’ fresh, rescued food helps nourish some of our community’s most vulnerable residents.
“Look at this!” says Henry, a guest at St. Anthony’s later that day, who’s showing off a wrapped FoodShare fruit-bowl.
“This here is saving me right now,” says the Navy veteran, who dines regularly at St. Anthony’s. “I’ll eat lunch here and take this bowl of fruit home and use it as dinner. “The fact that I can take it home and keep it fresh is very useful.”
St. Anthony’s Food Production Coordinator Ruth Selby says the FoodShare program has been nothing less than a game-changer: “I can’t tell you what a difference this food is making. We serve lunch every day to thousands of guests in our dining room. The Starbucks Mercato items allow folks who face hunger throughout the day to also take something home that is not only filling, but nutritious as well.”
Food Bank Chief Operating Officer Meredith Nguyen applauds Starbucks’ visionary approach: “Rescuing and sharing Starbucks’ fantastic food is only possible because the company has also invested in our operations and infrastructure. They provided funds that enabled us to hire drivers and contributed to the purchase of a new refrigerated van so that we could launch and sustain this effort.”
The quality of the Mercato food is also drawing notice. Tanya lunches regularly at St Anthony’s and says she now looks forward to those special days when she gets a take-home meal with lunch.
“They’re delicious, for sure, but they’re also one of the healthiest things that I eat during most days, because I don’t have the money to pay for something like this.”
Starbucks officials are very pleased with how this program has grown. “Organizations like San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and St. Anthony’s Dining Room make it possible for our surplus food to get into the hands that need it most,” said Laura Olson, director Global Social Impact. “We take great pride in supporting the communities we serve in any way we can. Through FoodShare, our partners are able to give back to those in need and address one of the most serious issues we have today, hunger.”
The FoodShare program was started back in 2016 in San Diego and has spread to other cities, including Chicago, Oklahoma and San Jose.