Starbucks to Donate 100 Percent of Unsold Food to Food Banks

Starbucks said its employees urged the company to donate food.

— -- Those perfectly good Starbucks "protein bistro boxes" and "PB&J" sandwiches won't be languishing in a landfill anymore. Starbucks announced this week that it's aiming to donate 100 percent of its unsold food to those in need.

The coffee giant said its employees, or "partners," came up with the idea to donate the food that doesn't sell instead of throwing it away. It's easier donating coffee and tea, which the company has given away for a long time, because it's not as perishable. The company has donated pastries, which have less food safety risks because they don't require refrigeration, systematically through the Food Donation Connection, a food donation service, since 2010.

"The partners would say, 'It hurts to throw perfectly good food in a landfill.' It took a couple years to get the food in a safe way to people in need," a spokeswoman for Starbucks told ABC News.

With its new program FoodShare, Starbucks is now partnering with the nonprofit Feeding America, which has a network of food banks and pantries across the country. Starbucks conducted "extensive" food safety testing in addition to making sure the food, with its texture and flavor, would still be enjoyed, according to the spokeswoman. Tests included transporting a sandwich in the middle of summer in Arizona and checking its temperature along the journey.

The recipients of the donated food will still see Starbucks' labels on the sandwiches, salads or other refrigerated items.

"All of our internal testing gave us the confidence to do that," the Starbucks spokeswoman said.

The program will begin rolling out this year and include all of Starbucks' 7,600 company-operated stores in the U.S. within the next five years. By 2021, the company will be providing 50 million meals.

Starbucks is also encouraging other companies to create similar programs. The spokeswoman for Starbucks said expanding the program globally has a different set of challenges.

"It will be a while to take what we learned and apply it to other markets," she said.