Why Grocery Stores Don't Donate All Of their surplus Food to Charity

June 17, 2019

One the biggest questions we get at Flashfood is "why don't grocery stores donate the extra food to charity?" It's a great question and it sounds logical in theory. However, here are a few reasons why they don't. Let's dig into this!

It's a logistical nightmare. The entire logistical process includes coordinating pick ups, sorting and storing food, distributing food, and finally disposing food that becomes spoiled. This process takes up quite a lot of resources and time. In comparison, a straight cash donation can potentially have up to 5x the buying power as it allows flexibility in what is actually needed. For example, one homeless shelter or kitchen may receive an entire pallet of spinach one day because it's approaching its best before date. In reality, a homeless shelter or kitchen would not be able to get rid of an entire pallet of spinach (or any other food!) before it goes bad and starts to rot. Then they have to figure out how to dispose of that rotting food and also pay for disposal fees. Moreover, other issues that arise are storage and refrigeration, most charities don't have the space for surplus food. While there are charities that do help with the logistical process, it doesn't solve the entire problem as these charities are also limited in their capacity.

With Flashfood, we're working towards allowing our customers to be able to donate food items to those in need directly through the app, which would allow individuals to come pick it up themselves at the store.


The misconception of liability. Many grocery stores and restaurants don't give away their unused food because they are afraid of being liable if someone gets sick from their donated food. This isn't exactly the case. Actually, The Ontario Donation of Food Act protects all companies from any liability when donating food in good will. 


Grocery store involvement. The truth is, at the end of the day, a grocery store is a business and it needs to make money to survive. So, it must look at how to best utilize its resources which includes its employees. With that said, it's hard for a grocery store to justify time spent anywhere but working towards selling, well groceries. While most do care, there are store programs in place that attempt to mitigate food waste, however these are not 100% effective. There are other stores that tend to donate cash to charities, like Walmart. They understand that there needs to be a more streamlined and effective way to reduce food waste. We hope Flashfood is the long term answer to ending food waste and feeding hungry people.


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