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Whole Foods Spokesperson Rebuts Viral TikTok Showing Discarded Food

Food Rescue US volunteer Rachel Unger with a Whole Foods Market haul.
Food Rescue US volunteer Rachel Unger with a Whole Foods Market haul. Photo courtesy of Ellen Bowen
Recently, TikToker @dumpsterdivingfreegan went viral, garnering more than 2.5 million views for filming what appeared to be hundreds of dollars worth of seemingly edible food from a Whole Foods Market dumpster. In one post, the account, which has over 351,000 followers, showed a dumpster dive haul that yielded an assortment of meats, vegetables, and fruits.

With the holidays approaching and many Americans living in poverty, the post clearly struck a chord.

Does Whole Foods Market throw out food rather than donate it?

The answer, according to a Whole Foods spokesperson is: No. The company does not trash good food.

"Our policy is to donate or upcycle food," he adds.

The grocery chain, which was purchased by Amazon in 2017, has a robust program in place in which food is donated to various organizations through a network of people who coordinate pickups. The spokesperson says Whole Foods donated about 27 million meals in 2020 to food-rescue and redistribution programs nationwide.

To make sure the food gets into the right hands, Whole Foods partners with Food Donation Connection, a national organization that donates millions of pounds of perishable and nonperishable food to local food banks and rescues. In addition to Whole Foods, Food Donation Connection works with other well-known food companies including Wawa, Pizza Hut, Olive Garden, Auntie Annie's, Cracker Barrel, and Chipotle.

"They connect us with local food-rescue organizations and facilitate the transportation of the food," says the WFM spokesperson, adding that Food Donation Connection acts as the middleman between the stores and the food banks.

Whole Foods also has a program called Nourishing our Neighborhoods that provides refrigerated vans to community-based food rescue programs. "We donate vans to food agencies so that they can transport food safely," the WFM spokesperson says.

As for the TikToks that show Whole Foods Market items being pulled from a dumpster, the spokesperson says that the company has been trying to get in touch with @sumpsterdivingfreedon to learn where they found the items. "The video does not contain any information that would allow us to fact check or verify its accuracy," he says.

The spokesman notes that even though the food may look edible, that may not be the case.

"If a refrigerated case goes out overnight, we have to throw the foods out. They cannot be consumed," he says.

Ellen Bowen, site director for Food Rescue US – South Florida, confirms that her organization has a longstanding date every Sunday with Whole Foods.

"Every Sunday we load up an entire minivan with food from Whole Foods," she says, explaining that the food is then transported to organizations in the Miami area. Bowen adds that other organizations pick up food from Whole Foods on other days of the week.

Whole Foods isn't the only South Florida grocer that donates food.to local organizations. Trader Joe's, which just opened a location in Coral Gables, donates 100 percent of all unsold (yet still consumable) products to local nonprofit, community-based organizations through its "Neighborhood Shares" program. Publix also donates its perishable food, partnering with Feeding America, according to its website
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times, covering the restaurant and bar scene in South Florida. She has been featured on Cooking Channel’s Eat Street and Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race. Doss won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature on what it’s like to wait tables. In a previous life, she appeared off-Broadway and shook many a cocktail as a bartender at venues in South Florida and New York City. When she’s not writing, you can find Doss running some marathon then celebrating at the nearest watering hole.
Contact: Laine Doss