When you operate nearly 240 grocery stores worldwide, across 13 countries and 2 U.S. territories, not every food item is going to be sold by its sell-by date. That’s just the reality, although we strive to forecast customer demand as closely as possible.
The question becomes what to do with those items, and our answer is that commissaries would rather fill food banks than landfills. Did you know that commissaries have donated more than 21 million pounds of edible, but unsellable, products in just the last 5 years?
A Temporary Shutdown Paved The Way
When the 2013 government shutdown happened, we had some important decisions to make.
Commissaries already had limited authority to request food bank approval to donate edible, but unsellable products. As we prepared to close our stateside stores, however, we still needed to request temporary approval from DoD to donate edible food to local food banks.
Taking this important step would keep the food from going to waste, so that’s exactly what we did.
Then, following the shutdown, DoD worked out the details of a formal donation program, which it approved for commissaries. Nonprofit food banks must register with DoD to receive donations, and food inspectors must certify that the items pulled for donation are edible, but unsellable.
The response from food banks has been positive and their interest has only continued to grow, ranging from 636,000 pounds of donations to 72 food banks in 2014 to more than 5 million pounds of donations to 193 food banks last year!
“The donated amount represents less than 1% of our sales, but every bit helps for those who need it,” Eller said.
This initiative is separate from DeCA’s participation in USDA’s annual “Feds Feed Families” campaign, during which commissaries serve as collection points for donations from commissary customers and DoD civilians on their installations, providing even more support to community food banks!
Commissaries with Food Bank Partnerships
Click the first letter of your state or locality on the menu below to see participating stores near you!