News that the French have said, “Fini!” to supermarkets throwing away edible food is worthy of applause — and maybe a little eye-rolling from those of us living in L ’Etoile du Nord.
Minnesota has been on the cutting edge of curbing food waste for years.
In May, France’s parliament voted unanimously to force grocers to either donate their still-nutritious but nearly expired food to charity, or make sure that it’s used as animal feed. Beginning in July 2016, large supermarkets in France will face fines of up to $82,000 for failing to comply.
Unlike the French, whose former food minister introduced the bill after calling his country’s abundant wasted food “scandalous,” many Twin Cities grocery chains have been efficiently, yet quietly, tackling the problem for years without laws or fines.
We’re nicer that way.
Lunds & Byerlys, for example, will donate about 2.5 million pounds of food this year, most of it going to Second Harvest Heartland Food Rescue, and the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center, which serves hot meals to as many as 500 adults every night.
The chain inspects food, everything from meat to seafood to dry goods and bakery items, by the sell-by-date to make sure it is still good before donating it, said Aaron Sorenson, Lunds & Byerlys spokesman. Expired food not deemed safe for human consumption is donated to local pig farms.
Kowalski’s also donates daily to Second Harvest, said spokeswoman Deb Kowalski, who noted that her former mother-in-law, Betty Kowalski, inspired the effort.
“She hated waste,” Kowalski said. “Her generation grew up with not enough.” Milk from Kowalski’s is donated up to seven days before the sell-by-date. Sandwiches are pulled at the end of each day. “The bakery always offers a supply, and the deli, too.”
Cub Foods opens up its shelves to Second Harvest staffers who take dairy products, close-dated meat, grocery crackers, soups, cereal and produce, among other items, filling three or four pallets a week.
Whole Foods donates around 1,000 pounds of sell-by-date food every week to two food shelters as part of its “zero-waste initiative.” Supervalu reported that it offers a food shelf in its lobby for food collection. When they have enough, they call food organizations to pick it up.
This collective effort has been a tremendous boost to organizations such as the Salvation Army, which runs Harbor Light. About 60 percent of the food served at Harbor Light has been “rescued” from Lunds & Byerlys, Trader Joe’s and other grocers, said a grateful Salvation Army spokeswoman, Julie Borgen.
Donated food also finds its way to eight of the organization’s area food shelves, she added.
“Rescued food allows us to provide people with fresher and healthier food than we would otherwise be able to purchase,” she said. “The businesses that donate to us believe that food that is still fresh is best used serving people who are hungry, rather than ending up in the trash.”
If you don’t see your favorite grocer on this list, talk to the manager and suggest it.
Maria Bell is a recent graduate of Breck School. Staff writer Gail Rosenblum can be reached at 612-673-7350.