Grocery chains in the Mid-Atlantic, including Weis Markets, Giant Food Stores are working meticulously to keep waste under control, getting creative with what they can and donating what they can. “Our number one priority is to minimize food waste,” said Derrick Reitz, sustainability specialist, Weis Markets, based in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. “We do that largely through inventory management. With the commodities we are working with we worry about shelf lives, especially for fresh products where you are speaking of a matter of days.”
Weis uses its in-house transportation department — a truck fleet — to get products out to stores as quickly as possible so that the shelf life is spent at the store and in a customer’s hand versus sitting in a warehouse. “We also try to optimize inventory so that there isn’t inventory sitting in the backroom, expiring,” Reitz said.
There is, “unfortunately, always going to be some waste,” Reitz said. “Our next step would be to donate in every possible category we can. We have a pretty thorough relationship with the Pennsylvania Food Bank and other regional food banks throughout our footprint.”
Weis is expanding what it donates to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, and that covers produce, deli, bakery and dairy products. “We are trying to get as much in their hands as possible because we are trying to feed hungry people,” Reitz said. “The food is there. It’s the reason why it exists — to feed people. That is our priority.”
Overall in 2019 Weis donated more than 800 tons of food to food banks. “We expect to expand that in 2020,” he said. The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is starting to work with partners that accept prepared foods, like sandwiches, as a donatable item. The food bank serves more than 135,000 people in 27 counties each month. “That is something Weis is working toward as well,” Reitz said, “so that we can include the deli department when we donate.”