How the Top 5 Supermarkets Waste Food
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Vons and Safeway partner with Feeding America, which was formerly known as America’s Second Harvest. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and San Diego Food Bank are major recipients of the grocery chain’s donations.
“Each year we give millions of dollars of food to various food banks and hunger programs,” says company spokesperson Teena Massingill. “That’s food donated from our stores: bread donations, day-old bread from store from pantry, food that we can’t sell in the store but is still good – a dented can, a product that’s still good but reformulated. It also includes food drives we do – customers will purchase food and put in bins.”
But excess perishable foods routinely get thrown away.
Former Safeway deli employee John Wadginski says walking into a Safeway store still brings up bad memories for him. It wasn’t selling the food that bothered him – it was the amount he was required to throw away at the end of each night that made his stomach churn.
“All the ‘daily specials’ – cooked food like ham and ribs were dumped each night,” Wadginski said. “I had to throw out 10 pound hams that weren’t even touched. It was easily 50 pounds of food a night.”
Other employees corroborated his claims.
“Once the items are out of our control, we cannot guarantee that they will be kept under the specified temperatures,” said Massingill. “While Good Samaritan laws may or may not protect a donor in this case, it is best to error on the side of caution when dealing with the health and safety of others. Many pantries do not have refrigeration units on site at all, making it impossible to completely avoid spoilage.”
It’s not just food requiring refrigeration that Safeway chooses not to donate. Produce receives the same treatment.
“If a produce item is deemed unfit for sale, we do not donate it for human consumption,” Massingill said. “It may be deemed unfit because it is bruised or overripe … Safeway does not donate items that are not fit for consumption or could be unfit for consumption when they reach the final recipient.”
Tina Mather is a freelance reporter in Los Angeles.