The love-hate relationship between environmentalists and Starbucks gets a new twist this week, as the monster coffee chain unveils a new policy to donate unsold food to charity. The Seattle-based company has been researching ways to rescue its prepared foods from the trash when they aren’t sold by the expiration date. The new food donation program is starting small, but Starbucks has big plans to expand the program over the next several years until every last bit of unsold food ends up in the hands and mouths of people who need it.

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Starbucks’ new program FoodShare allows the company to donate ‘ready-to-eat’ foods that are past their expiration date. This includes salads, sandwiches, and other refrigerated items, which were prohibited from being donated in the past due to food safety regulations. This week, Starbucks issued a statement explaining the company’s experience investing in “research and quality assurance testing to develop a way to safely donate fresh food.”

Related: New law in Italy would force supermarkets to donate unsold food to those in need

The company estimates the new program will provide five million meals to people in need in the first year. Future plans involve scaling up the program over the next five years until 100 percent of the unsold food from company-run stores in the United States is donated, which Starbucks says will amount to 50 million meals by 2021. That suggests, without clearly stating, that the program will rescue that much wasted food from the trash.

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The chain’s commitment to environmental and social issues have come under fire before, and this effort might help improve its image. Environmental groups have long criticized the coffee company’s enormous water consumption and excessive disposable packaging. Starbucks has made efforts to respond in recent years, by reducing water use, introducing reusable cups, and installing recycling collection bins in stores. Jumping on the food donation trend, which is gaining ground in food industries around the world, is the company’s latest attempt to balance its environmental impact and give back to the communities in which it operates.

Via MyModernMet

Images via Starbucks