Yum! Brands Foundation expands food donation initiative internationally

Child enjoying his donated KFC | Photo courtesy Yum! Brands Foundation

Child enjoying his donated KFC chicken | Photo courtesy Yum! Brands Foundation

Since 1992, franchisees of KFC and Pizza Hut in the United States have been encouraged to save and donate extra food to area nonprofits through the Yum! Brands Foundation’s Harvest program.

Now the foundation is expanding those efforts internationally, with restaurants in Spain, Italy and Australia coming on board this fall. They’re also in conversations with franchisees in more than a dozen countries in Europe, Central America and Asia.

In the United States, surplus food from close to 4,000 stores has benefitted soup kitchens, churches, food pantries and other nonprofits. The program also keeps said food out of landfills, diverting 2 million metric tons of methane. Since 1992, this amounts to 184 million pounds of food nationwide.

In Louisville, one in five people is at risk of going hungry, and according to Jefferson County Public Schools, more than 64 percent of JCPS students are eligible for free or subsidized lunch programs. Louisville franchisees’ food goes to several local nonprofits including the Open Hand Kitchen at St. Vincent DePaul and Greater St. Mark Baptist Church. Over the years, more than 1.4 million pounds of food have benefitted the Louisville community alone.

Also in Louisville, the Yum! Brands Foundation has donated more than $1 million annually to Dare to Care for the past 14 years.

At many fast-food restaurants like KFC, stores cook to projections. A batch of fried chicken takes 25 minutes to cook; you can’t be “fast” with chicken if you cook to order. So chicken and sides that have been sitting around too long for KFC standards is frozen for donation.

At the end of a shift, workers pack up surplus food into freezer containers. The nonprofits will pick up the donations as often as daily to distribute the food. This isn’t just redistributing fried chicken and mashed potatoes and pizza. Some of the food will be served as-is; some will be used as ingredients in other dishes.

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The initiative is “feeding people, not landfills,” Tyler Hampton, brand builder at Yum! Brands Foundation, tells Insider Louisville.

While Yum! Brands is the largest participant in the Harvest program, other chains have signed on to distribute extra food through Harvest partner Food Donation Connection, based in Knoxville, Tenn.; those eateries include Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc.), Papa John’s and Starbucks.

The program facilitates relationships between restaurants and the nonprofits in their communities, as the food stays within 10 miles of the stores. Many franchise owners develop cards to distribute to homeless people directing them to the nonprofit that the store supports.

Laura Melillo Barnum, executive director of the Yum! Brands Foundation, says that while they talk a lot about the program internally at Yum, few people on the outside are aware of the Harvest program. She said people may think it’s easier to just throw out the food at the end of the day, but founder Colonel Sanders, who was an avid philanthropist, would say it’s better to do the right thing — even if it’s the hard way.

After all, he’s the man who said, “I’ve only had two rules: Do all you can and do it the best you can. It’s the only way you ever get that feeling of accomplishing something.”