Starbucks takes action after workers fret over wasted food

SAN DIEGO --During the four years he's worked at Starbucks, Jordan Jellison has often cringed while watching unsold sandwiches, parfaits and food boxes go into the garbage every evening.

"We are affected at a human level when we see something that's perfectly good that could feed needy families going to waste," the Starbucks manager said.

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Starbucks' food offerings

CBS News

He wasn't alone, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone. After many Starbucks employees voiced concern, the company decided to take action. Starbucks recently announced a new plan to donate 100 percent of its unsold food to charity within five years.

"They've used their voice, and they said, 'We see an opportunity. You need to help solve this,'" said Jane Maly, Starbucks food team brand manager.

Solving it became Maly's job. Many Starbucks stores were already donating their pastries, which can easily be bagged and dropped off at nearby charities. But creating a program to include perishable items gathered from thousands of stores nationwide was a challenge.

"You actually introduce something very complex when you start introducing food that needs to be kept refrigerated.... So we really had to partner with experts like Feeding America who are really experts in moving food in a safe way," Maly said.

The federal government believes 30 to 40 percent of the nation's food supply is wasted a year. In 2014, nearly one in seven Americans lived in households that at some point were unsure where the next meal would come from.

Feeding America is the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief and food-rescue organization. In 2015, its network of warehouses, food banks and food pantries saved over two billion pounds of edible food that might otherwise have gone to waste.

"What was it like when the folks from Starbucks came to you and said, 'We got an idea'?" Blackstone asked.

"My first answer was, 'Really? You're really gonna try to take this on?' ... It takes so much planning," said Al Brislain, CEO of Feeding America San Diego. "All the routes, all the-- you know, making sure the temperature is right, making sure that the food is still nutritious and fresh. And then they started talking, and their commitment came through."

After a year of research and food safety testing, Starbucks recently rolled out food-donation pilot programs in Arizona and California. In San Diego, Jellison manages one of 30 Starbucks locations now donating all of their perishable foods every day.

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Currently, 30 Starbucks locations donate all of their perishable foods every day

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"For us it's real simple -- we just take that food, put it in a bag, zip tie it up -- put a date on it, put it in the fridge," Jellison said.

Later that evening, a driver with Feeding America stops at each of the participating stores, checks that the food has been kept at the proper temperature, then loads it into crates and onto a refrigerated truck.

Within hours, the food is delivered to food banks and agencies like the San Diego Rescue Mission. There the yogurt parfait may go into lunch bags for children or be served immediately along with Starbucks breakfast sandwiches on the food line.

"It's something that they couldn't afford, and we're able to provide it through programs like this with Starbucks. It's making a real difference in their lives," Brislain said.

Starbucks plans to donate five million meals to individuals and families in need this year and hopes to extend the program to all of its 7,600 company-operated stores in the U.S. over the next 12 months.

"It should be bigger than Starbucks. It should be other companies that hopefully use our blueprint and are able to donate the food that they might not be donating today," Maly said.

"If other companies emulate this, think of the exponential impact that it's gonna make around the country. ... If we can bring that move that needle just a little bit, we're gonna make a real difference in fighting hunger," Brislain said.