URBANA — A grocery item that isn't quite perfect enough to be sold retail can still feed a hungry family.
So two Meijer stores in Champaign-Urbana are now donating their excess food to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, and the foodbank is making several pickups a week.
"Every time we can get a new retailer on board, it's a huge benefit," food bank spokeswoman Julie Melton said.
The Eastern Illinois Foodbank helps needy families in a 14-county area, and half its food supply comes from retailers and manufacturers, Melton said.
Meijer now joins such retail donors as Wal-Mart, Schnuck's, Sam's Club and Target, she said.
"We have great relationships with a lot of the stores and manufacturers in the area. We actually couldn't survive without them," Melton added.
Meijer's food rescue program donated 700,000 pounds of food to local food banks last year, providing for more than 527,700 meals, the company says.
Champaign Meijer store director Mike Anderson said about 2,400 products in the store are eligible for donation to the food bank and are now being picked up two or three days a week.
Melton said the top three reasons food is donated to the food bank are over-production, damaged boxes or an unpopular flavor.
Anderson said Meijer has very high standards for what can be sold on its shelves. All the food it's donating just isn't meeting the standards in some way, but in terms of quality and safety all the products are fine to eat and within their sell-by dates.
For example, a bakery item with a sell-by date of Oct. 17 might be donated on Oct. 16, he said.
Mostly meat, bakery and dry grocery products are being donated, Anderson said, but some dairy and produce items are also donated, he said.
Meijer says it donates more than 6 percent of its net profits to charity each year.