What Does Publix Do With Expired Food

Grocery stores have everything you need to prepare the meals you love at home, but part of their business model requires grocery stores to maintain a certain inventory level to keep things in stock. Since they are dealing with perishable food, it’s only inevitable that a grocery store will be left with expired stock that can no longer be sold to customers. Publix is one of America’s biggest grocery store chains — what does Publix do with expired food?

As long as the food is safe, and edible, Publix will try their best to donate those perishable foods. Publix has a robust perishable donations program that partners stores with local community partners to reduce waste as much as possible.

While not perfect, the program is responsible for hundreds of millions of pounds of food and hundreds of millions of meals donated to food banks and food services throughout the country. 

Grocery stores will inevitably have to deal with expired stock and waste. Their options are often limited, and some companies are more innovative and creative in their approach than others. Regarding Publix, food waste is taken very seriously, so they do everything they can to limit it.

What do other stores do with expired food?

Most grocery stores, particularly in heavily populated areas, will often toss out expired food. Many will do all they can to move their near-expired items to secondary markets, if possible. Discount stores may purchase store-stable items at pennies on the dollar, passing those discounts on to their customers.

Some products can be turned into other products through upcycling and conversion processes, and some items will get donated to food banks and charities.

Unfortunately, however, a lot of it ends up in the trash. Part of the problem is that some charitable organizations that would otherwise accept food donations simply don’t have the resources or facilities to process and store some food items, especially in large quantities.

How much food is wasted in U.S. grocery stores?

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that roughly 30-40% of the food supply in the U.S. each year ends up being food waste: food that either expires or goes unused despite being prepared. Supermarkets account for roughly 10% of all U.S. food waste or 43 billion pounds of food annually.

Much of this is simply due to consumer preference. Fresh produce items that are shaped oddly, or discolored slightly, have a far lower likelihood of being purchased and, therefore, a higher likelihood of being wasted. In this context, it’s difficult to see how a grocery store can do much but deal with the waste at the end of the process.

Is food waste a big problem?

Relatively speaking, yes – food waste in the U.S. is a big problem. The non-profit group Feeding America estimates that roughly 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the U.S. each year, equating to around 130 billion meals and more than $400 billion in waste annually.

When coupled with the ever-present food insecurity problem in the country, where more than 34 million people are food insecure, it’s difficult to argue that food waste is not a big problem. It’s unconscionable that millions go hungry simultaneously while millions of meals are just thrown away.

But the problem isn’t easy to fix; otherwise, we would likely have fixed it by now. It’s a problem not only because of the dollars it costs, but studies now suggest it is an additional contributor to climate change. Food waste in landfills produces excess methane that would otherwise not exist, contributing to the level of greenhouse gases in the environment. Overall, food waste is a moral and societal crisis on a global scale.

Is Publix responsible with food waste?

Publix is somewhat of an industry leader in handling food waste issues. In 2010 the company launched its Perishable Recovery Program to connect all of its stores with local partners and area food banks.

The goal is to gather food from fresh departments (deli, meat, produce, dairy) that is still safe to consume but can no longer be sold and donate those items to local food banks. The program has been immensely successful and serves as a model for other companies to adopt.

Publix makes it a core part of its mission to integrate each of its stores with the communities they are built in. From Publix’s point of view, part of that relationship-building is the responsible handling of food waste problems.

What is next for the future of food waste solutions?

The U.S. is making significant strides in policy to combat food waste domestically. Part of the solution comes from technology. New waste management methods allow food processors such as restaurants to become digesters, converting food waste on-site into usable by-products such as fuel.

Many food waste items can be digested further into a safe, easily disposable liquid form, reducing landfill volume. These similar approaches may be scalable for grocery store sites as well.

Many future solutions are focused on micro-level innovations: technologies or methods that can be adapted further down the production chain. Suppose this is the wave of the future in the area of food waste.

In that case, grocery stores may ultimately take on more of that responsibility themselves and perhaps have on-site food waste processes that are much more robust than simply tossing expired items into the dumpster. Instead, grocery stores may have equipment on-site that will allow them to directly convert food waste into something they can use or sell instead.


Food goes bad, and people aren’t always that great at using food before it goes bad. These are just facts of life. Grocery stores often end up with expired inventory they can no longer sell and often cannot find a place to donate because of logistics or facility limitations.

This means many of these items end up in the trash, even when grocery store management wants to donate but cannot.

Publix does a relatively good job of making food waste a core focus. By implementing a company-wide perishable food donation program and closely partnering with food banks, the grocery store chain has emerged as a leader and model for others to follow. Publix has spent a great deal of time and resources on solving the food waste problem, and its hard work has paid off.

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