Publix program avoids waste, donates food to Second Harvest

Publix program avoids waste, donates food to Second Harvest

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Some staggering numbers were recently released when it comes to food waste.

It's estimated 4.4 billion tons of food are produced each year, but about half is never eaten.  That means 2 billion pounds of food end up in the trash!

In Central Florida, a program is in place to avoid waste and save nutritious food for thousands who need it most.

Sometimes, produce is not picture-perfect. But Publix isn't letting one bad apple spoil the bunch -- they're plucking out the bad seeds and plant them somewhere else.

"I'm so glad that we adopted this program. That way, it's not going in the garbage," said Brett Thomas, a manager at Publix.

"It's actually going to places that can use it, because a lot of the stuff we pull is perfectly good for consumption. It just doesn't meet Publix quality." 

The items pulled off shelves typically have minor packaging problems or could be nearing their sell-by date. They're perfectly safe for consumption. Take a bruised banana, for example. Instead of getting tossed, it just gets reassigned and boxed up as a part of the Perishable Recovery Program.

"They come by and get the items we can't necessarily sell for full retail," Thomas said.

The product mix includes fresh produce, meat, dairy, bakery, deli and non-perishable goods.  Some items are frozen and stored until pickup day. That's when the Second Harvest Food Bank sends one of their 10 refrigerated trucks for the donations.

"They pick up at each of our stores two to three times per week and cover about 15,000 miles a month," said Lauren Moskowitz, Grocery Alliance Manager with Second Harvest Food Bank.  

Donations are delivered to the Second Harvest warehouse, where they are sorted and distributed to partner agencies within 24 hours to maintain freshness.

"It allows them access to not only a huge volume of food, but also a different type of food, things like fresh produce, really nutritious things that are otherwise hard for people to come by," Moskowitz said.

Since the program's inception in 2009, the food bank has been able to hand out 40 million pounds of food through this program alone, creating 33 million meals in Central Florida.

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