Since 2018, Sharing Excess has rescued more than 10 million pounds of food that would otherwise have gone to waste. The Philadelphia-based food rescue organization leverages tech in the form of an open source food rescue app, which enables their distribution team to organize volunteers and partner organizations around scheduled food rescues. Tech solutions like this, which facilitate donation coordination and matching, have the potential to save 144k tons of food and 522 metric tons of carbon while netting a financial benefit of $552 million each year. (Ryan McHenry of Sharing Excess describes their work on this very well here.)
The tech-savvy team has a robust analytics platform that tracks metrics such as rescues, providers, destinations, and more. The metrics show that the majority of rescued food (81%) comes from wholesale destinations. While that might make retail food rescue seem less important, the Sharing Excess team emphasizes that both are critical to ensuring they have enough inventory of various food products and are able to manage the trade-offs that each donation source generates.
Challenges involved with working with individual retail stores include the number of different employees involved in a transaction, high employee turnover, and very busy schedules that don’t always allow employees time to select the products that are near the end of their shelf life from the aisles. However, many retailers donate food items like prepared meals, that are easier to distribute through a food bank or pantry, which makes working with them easier in the long run. With wholesale, entire pallets of produce are donated, and it can be a challenge to find the right destination for them. Imagine having a very large amount of one item, like carrots. In order to make use of them, it requires redistributing to many different outlets as there are not many places that can use a huge amount of carrots. Smaller donations can be faster and easier to redistribute, since one or two outlets can use the whole donation.
In the last year, about 60% of food rescued by Sharing Excess has been given to food banks, 38% has gone to agencies, with the remainder going to pop-up markets, community fridges, and home delivery. Produce accounts for 85% of donations, with the rest distributed between meat, dairy, bakery, and mixed items. This equals an impact of 2,277,771.72 lbs. Emissions Reduced, with a total retail value of $1,187,577.79 and a fair market value of $820,999.88 (Sharing Excess, 2022). Ultimately, it is the connection between excess food outlets and destinations that is the key solution that the Sharing Excess team has created. The software also helps food businesses easily donate by streamlining the partnerships or contacts needed to match the frequency, type, and quantity of donatable items. It also makes it easier for food businesses to track how much food they are giving in order to garner the correct tax