Food Rescue: Cutting Food Waste & Giving Back

Grocery stores like Lakewinds, along with other food-related businesses such as restaurants and farms, generate food waste. There’s no way to avoid it completely, but we can take steps to minimize waste and redirect safe, edible food to those who need it. One way the co-op aims to reduce food waste is through food rescue partnerships.

According to the USDA, “Food waste is estimated at between 30 – 40 percent of the food supply.” That adds up to billions of pounds of food each year, some of which is safe and edible, creating methane in the landfill. Food waste not only creates greenhouse gas emissions, it includes the waste of resources, energy, and labor that went into producing the food.

At the co-op, foods that are still perfectly good to eat are culled from our shelves for all sorts of reasons. Maybe it’s an oddly shaped bell pepper or a day-old loaf of bread or an unopened box of pasta that is dented on one corner. Foods like those would normally be bound for the compost or the landfill, but through food rescue, we’re able to get them into the hands of neighbors living with food insecurity.

ICA food shelf volunteer, Dick Seitz
Community Partners

Food rescue requires partnerships between food-related businesses and food access organizations to divert safe, delicious foods from waste streams to food shelves, community meal programs, free mobile markets, and more. At Lakewinds, that involves staff carefully sorting items as they’re culled from our shelves and separating everything that’s still in great condition — safe and tasty to eat. Volunteers from local food access organizations pick up the food daily and bring it directly to the food shelf, or in the case of TC Food Justice, distribute it to local food access nonprofits. From there, the food is distributed free of charge to folks in the communities we call home.

PROP food shelf volunteers

“Over 1,200 families a year rely on PROP food shelf to help meet their need for nutritious food. Each day, PROP distributes approximately 2,000 pounds of food to people in Eden Prairie and Chanhassen who are struggling to make ends meet. Much of that food is rescued from area grocery stores like Lakewinds Food Co-op in Chanhassen, MN. Rather than ending up in a landfill, safely rescued food immediately helps to meet the nutritional needs of PROP’s clients as they work toward a more secure future. PROP is so grateful to our faithful food rescue partners like Lakewinds Food Co-op!”

  • Holly Henslin Link, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at PROP

Through our food rescue program, the co-op donates over 100,000 pounds of bread, produce, dairy, grocery, deli foods, and wellness products annually to local food shelves. In fiscal year 2023 (July 2022-June 2023), it added up to 175,890 pounds of fresh produced, packaged grocery items, and perishables recued and redistributed by the co-op’s four main food rescue partners, VEAP food shelf, ICA food shelf, PROP food shelf, and TC Food Justice!

ICA food shelf volunteers

“Lakewinds has helped ICA care for the record numbers of families seeking help. As one of our most significant partners, approximately 11% of our food rescue comes from Lakewinds [Minnetonka.] And it is some of freshest and most nutritious food we receive. In the second half of 2023 alone Lakewinds helped ICA provide over 25,000 meals to our neighbors in need. We cannot say thank you enough to all the Lakewinds staff for all they do to ensure that the neighbors in need in our community are well care for.”

  • Scott Searl, Director of Philanthropy at ICA

With the help of dedicated Lakewinds staff and the amazing volunteers at VEAP, ICA, PROP, and TC Food Justice, the co-op is able to fight food insecurity and make daily operations more environmentally friendly. It’s one solution that addresses multiple challenges — a win for everyone!

TC Food Justice volunteers picking up donations from Richfield Lakewinds
Get Involved

Cutting back on waste isn’t just important for grocery stores and other businesses. Reducing food waste at home is one way we can all do our part to fight climate change. According to Hennepin County Climate Action, “In Hennepin County, we know from waste sorts that 20% of our trash is food. On average, 3.5 pounds of food are wasted per person per week.” Here are some ways you can get started reducing food waste at home.

  • Get a counter-top compost bin for food scraps, and begin backyard composting, or look into curbside composting in your area. (No meat, bones, dairy, or eggshells in backyard compost.)
  • Shop the bulk aisle at the co-op and buy produce in bulk when you have the option. Get just the right amount for your needs, so you don’t have to throw away leftovers. It’s a great way to avoid packaging waste, too! See this quick video explaining how to shop the bulk aisle.
  • Chop up extra herbs and freeze them in olive oil for easy use in future recipes. Save tomato paste, pesto, or other sauces in the same way.
  • Food planning and meal prep on the weekend saves you time and energy during the busy week ahead and you’ll waste less. Get helpful tips for success.
  • Take the Stop Food Waste Challenge and learn helpful habits to reduce your share of food waste.

Small changes can lead to big impacts in reducing food waste. Find more tips for cutting back on kitchen waste.