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Photo of dumpster filled with food items outside major grocery store sparks concern: 'Just unbelievable'

"The amount of wasted food will astonish you!"

"The amount of wasted food will astonish you!"

Photo Credit: iStock

Stores sometimes end up with a lot of food that, for one reason or another, they can't sell at full price. Ideally, they should find a productive way to use that food, but many simply throw it in the dumpster. One Redditor shared their experience with a mountain of wasted food behind a store in Massachusetts.

What happened?

The Reddit user posted a photo of the problem with the title "A large dumpster behind a Target in Holyoke, Mass. full of food." The picture shows an industrial-size dumpster in front of a Target sign. The trash can appears full to the top with food, including breakfast sandwiches, lasagna, burritos, muffins, and more.

"The amount of wasted food will astonish you!"
Photo Credit: Reddit

"Many treasures at the bottom of this receptacle," the OP wrote in a comment. In another comment, they said, "Lots of people were grabbing stuff, filling cars up with it so they could donate it."

In other words, multiple people seem to have agreed that the food was still good to eat.

"I worked in [the] grocery biz for 40 years," one commenter said. "The amount of wasted food will astonish you! Fresh food, out of date, just unbelievable!"

Why does wasted food matter?

When companies set prices for their food, they factor in how much they expect to throw away. The more food they waste, the higher the cost each sold item has to be to make up for it. That's bad news for consumers trying to shop on a budget.

Growing and preparing food also uses water, energy, materials, and land. The more food our society wastes, the more resources are needed to produce enough food to ensure everyone is fed. That's hard on the planet, and so is the extra air pollution from shipping the food to be sold.

Finally, there are hungry people in every community. Throwing away food that could feed someone is an irresponsible choice.

Is Target doing anything about this?

According to the chain's website, Target has donated tons of food to those in need. "Since 2001, we have partnered with Feeding America in their fight to end hunger in the U.S.," it says. "We donate millions of pounds of food each year, providing millions of meals to families in need."

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The Cool Down reached out to Target for comment on the post. 

"The photo you found online is from an incident a few months ago in one store that experienced a major power loss that resulted in a total food loss because food products were unsafe to sell," a spokesperson said. "This was an isolated incident, and is not a part of our regular practices."

What's being done about food waste more broadly?

One option is to sell expiring food at a discount via an app such as Too Good To Go; that means the business still makes a profit, buyers get a deal, and the food isn't wasted. Stores and restaurants can also plan better, like Detroit pizzeria PizzaPlex.

When someone does end up with expired food — either in the workplace or at home — it can be used for compost or animal feed.

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