On Tuesday, Starbucks announced that it will be donating all of its unsold food to food banks. This new initiative, called FoodShare, will be coordinated by the coffee mega-chain and its partners, charity group Food Donation Connection and the non-profit Feeding America. Starbucks claims that it will provide nearly five million meals to hungry individuals and families in this year alone.

Image via Starbucks

Image via Starbucks

“When we thought about our vast store footprint across the U.S. and the impact we could make, it put a fire under us to figure out how to donate this food instead of throwing it away,” said Jane Maly, brand manager, Starbucks Food team. “The challenge was finding a way to preserve the food’s quality during delivery. We focused on maintaining the temperature, texture and flavor of the surplus food, so when it reached a person in need, they could safely enjoy it.”

Starbucks already donates its unsold pastries to food banks through its partnership with Food Donation Connection. The FoodShare initiative was developed to safely add perishable food to its FDC, a shift that will be implemented in all participating company-operated stores by March of next year.

According to Feeding America, over 48 million Americans live in food insecure households, including 15.3 million children. “Food insecurity” refers to the state in which food that is both affordable and nutritious is unattainable, a common condition for individuals and families living at and below the poverty line.

Starbucks credits the creation of the FoodShare initiative to its own employees, which the company refers to as “partners.”

“Like many of our social impact initiatives, the innovation and inspiration comes from our partners who are volunteering in and contributing to their communities,” said John Kelly, senior vice president, Starbucks Global Responsibility, Community and Public Policy. “They saw the need for us to do more, and find a way to use our scale to bring more nourishing and ready-to-eat meals to those in need.”

Image via Starbucks

Image via Starbucks

Over the next five years, Starbucks intends to scale up the program and donate 100 percent of its food available for donation from participating U.S. stores. That would amount to 50 million donated meals by 2021, according to the company’s estimate.

“This food is going to make a difference, whether it’s a child not going hungry for the night or a family that’s able to enjoy a protein plate that they would not have otherwise been able to afford at Starbucks,” said Kienan McFadden, a Starbucks store manager. “Rescuing food in this way from being thrown away will change lives. It makes me proud to know partners are the heroes in this.”

With FoodShare, Starbucks hopes to inspire other companies to donate their unsold food.

“Our hope is by taking this first step, other companies will see the possibility for their participation and together we will make great strides in combating hunger,” said Cliff Burrows, group president, Starbucks U.S. and Americas.

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