Food too old to sell, but not wasted in Twin Cities


Many may wonder what happens to food in a grocery store after it has gone past the “sell by” date on the package.  Thanks to a local organization, these foods are getting to those in need.

Second Harvest Heartland is a food bank that distributes food in the Midwest, serving 59 counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  They have developed a program called Food Rescue, which takes food that can no longer be sold in stores and brings it to food shelves and soup kitchens.  The food gathered by the organization includes meat, bread, dairy and frozen goods, different than the imperishable goods often collected at food shelves.  Food quality is important for the group, with several steps for safety taken.  All food must meet specific standards.

According to Kate Mudge, the director of Food Rescue, almost every retailer in the Twin Cities participates.  “It doesn’t cost anything to participate, if anything it saves money from trash collection,” she said.  Companies also have tax incentives for participating.  Major retailers include Cub Foods, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart and Byerly’s, along with many other food sellers.

The program has existed since 1984, but has taken off in the last five years.  Similar programs exist across the country, but according to Mudge, this is one of the more formalized organizations.  Food Rescue has eight refrigerator trucks in the metro collecting food from stores daily, and it is one of the largest programs of its kind in the country.  Though the eight trucks run in the Twin Cities area, they also set up connections between stores and food shelves in rural areas.

Food Rescue is completely safe and protected by federal law under the Good Samaritan Act.  The program also offers a way for retailers to be green and increase sustainability efforts.  Working with 224 donors across Minnesota and Wisconsin, they collected and saved around 12 million pounds in 2010.

Second Harvest Heartland collects a total of 60 million pounds of food and year, with nearly 25 percent coming from Food Rescue.  With the program still growing, they hope to collect 15 million pounds this year.

The largest of their kind in the Upper Midwest, Second Harvest Heartland says on their website that they wish to relieve hunger through leadership and innovation.  They are also a member of “Feeding America,” a network of more than 200 food banks across the country.  Collecting, storing, and distributing millions of pounds of food to those in need are the main goals of the organization.

This innovative process of distributing food has a way to take what would end up being unnecessary landfill contents and feeding those who need it.  Manufacturers refuse to let this food go to waste, and Food Rescue helps to make sure that doesn’t happen.