Starbucks is donating all of its unsold food—but donating is a lot more complex than one might expect.

Sure, Starbucks is where you go to get your coffee. But did you know that you can get artisan sandwiches there as well? Or that the food often goes to waste? Indeed, Starbucks announced that they will be donating 100 percent of their unsold food to charity in April 2016.

Starbucks is currently testing out a food donation program in San Diego. When the coffee giant announced their plans for charity, Starbucks said that they expect to donate 5 million meals to individuals and families this year and to be doing this at all of its 7,600 locations in the United States within a few years. By 2021, Starbucks says that they’ll have given away 50 million free meals.

This is a step up from what Starbucks was doing before. Since 2010, they were donating unsold pastries. Now, the company plans to donate salads and sandwiches as well.
But donating surplus food comes with its challenges, whether you’re Starbucks or a small eatery.

Challenge: Too Much Bread

Many people within the restaurant industry say that donating food to homeless shelters and charities is more complicated that one might think. Cecil Rodriguez, the executive chief at Beef & Barley in Chicago, said that he worked with a shelter so his restaurant’s food wouldn’t to waste; but in the beginning, there were many challenges to be met.
Rodriguez said that he tried to donate a lot of bread to a shelter, but the shelter didn’t have room for more bread—most donations from restaurants are bread.
Rodriguez says to address the homeless situation in Chicago, he puts leftovers in containers, directing his staff to hand them out to hungry people.

‘’Even though it’s sad to say, there’s a homeless guy on almost every corner in the city.’’Rodriquez said.

Challenge: Not every company can afford to transport food to charities.

Restaurants operate on a thin profit margin. It can be a challenge to send staff with a delivery to a shelter every day. Either you’re adding work time to your employee’s paycheck or they’re making the delivery during their shift instead of tending to their regular duties.
Steve McGlynn, who works in advertising and lives in an apartment above Alice’s Bakey & Confectionery in Ambler, Pennsylvania, said that because of this issue, he began volunteering to share the time of driving in some of the extra food that Alice’s has at the end of the day.
McGlynn said that if more people volunteered to take in donated food from a restaurant on their way commuting to or from work, a lot less food would be wasted.

Challenge: Leftovers aren’t always consistent.

Michael Grant, owner of Antico Noe, an Italian restaurant in New York City, says that his business often has leftover panini after a large event. However, Grant never knows if he will have a lot or a little food to give out to City Harvest (a food rescue organization) after the event.
‘’Since we don’t know how much we have to donate until after the event, it is often hard to coordinate a pickup in advance,’’says Grant. ‘’If (City Harvest) has somebody in the area, they will send a driver, but usually we have to drop off the product at one of their distribution centers.’’ Grant said that as the owner of a small restaurant, food distribution gets complicated, but he is still happy to have Antico Noe’s surplus food make a drop-off for a good cause.

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