When fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and other foods pass their sell-by date, grocery stores take them off the shelves. This perfectly good food can then go to waste.

Grocery store customer

David Fikes, from the Food Marketing Institute, says despite being the number one contributor to food banks in the U.S., grocery stores donate only about fourteen percent of their total unsold food to the hungry, so there’s room for improvement.

Whether it’s a small “mom-and-pop” shop or a large retailer like Walmart or Target, common obstacles prevent grocers from donating more. They include lack of space to store food after it comes off the shelf, lack of refrigeration, and getting it to food banks and those who need it before it spoils.

David Fikes
David Fikes

FIKES: “There is a very narrow window when it is unsellable on the retail level but also consumable from a food bank level.”

Fikes says grocery stores must first find a food bank that agrees to accept out-of-date food, then maximize storage space, coordinate volunteers, and establish regular pick-ups to increase donations.

”Grocery Click To Tweet

Donating food helps feed hungry people. And since food releases global warming gases when it breaks down in a landfill, putting less in the trash is also good for the planet.

Reporting credit: Rosie Simon/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Grocery store photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Food Marketing Institute
Food Waste Reduction Alliance
Food Waste is a Global Problem (5-part series)

Jan O'Brien was assistant editor and website manager at Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. She brought more than three decades of experience in environmental publishing and policy research and more...