Waste not, want not: How area organizations are decreasing food waste and feeding families in the process

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - For millions of people around the world, the food provided via donations can mean the difference between life and death.

"We're really eager to get these other foods because of the nutritional aspect of them," Jason Lessard, Dir. of Operations for the Food Bank of Alaska, said of a new, extended donation partnership with area grocers.

That deal will allow certain local stores to provide lots of perishable items to local banks.

"It's two things," said Shane Erickson, Environmental Affairs Mgr. for Carrs, Safeway and Albertsons' Seattle Division. "One is keeping the market looking fresh for the customers, and then also, really deferring the product to people who can actually use the product, rather than putting it into the landfill."

Erickson is part of a recent initiative, run alongside Feeding America, that partners large grocery store chains with local partners, for example the Food Bank of Alaska, in order to donate food to distributors in need. While much of the process has to do with quality control and keeping store food stocks in tip-top shape, there's a much bigger mission behind it all.

"We've brought on national companies that formally were throwing food in the dump, because they didn't feel they had a safe outlet for it," said Jason Lessard, Food Bank of Alaska Dir. of Operations. What this means, he said, is that "we're gonna see a lot more of the items we really need to see here, namely dairies, fresh produce and meats," he said.

Those items - milk, eggs, yogurt, meats, cheeses, and fresh fruits and vegetables, along with frozen foods - can be some of the most expensive, which means food banks tend to have trouble stocking them.

And since they're perishable, those particular items often don't make it to food banks anyway: People and grocery stores as a whole tend to throw items out, often before they've really gone bad.

"The best by dates or use by dates or expiration dates are put on the package primarily by the manufacturer under the guides of what they have determined the quality would be. But easily, most foods are fine well beyond their expiration dates," Erickson said.