KANSAS CITY — Starbucks Corp. last week announced it will begin donating trash-bound, ready-to-eat meals to food banks from its 7,600 company-operated stores in the United States. Dubbed FoodShare, the program is part of an existing collaboration with Food Donation Connection and a new partnership with Feeding America.

Food safety policies at the Seattle-based coffee chain require employees to dispose of salads, sandwiches and other refrigerated items past the expiration date, even if the food may still be consumed. In the first year, the initiative is expected to provide nearly 5 million meals to those in need. The company plans to scale the program over the next five years to deliver almost 50 million meals by 2021.

Starbucks will begin donating trash-bound, ready-to-eat meals to food banks from its 7,600 company-operated stores in the United States.

“Like many of our social impact initiatives, the innovation and inspiration comes from our partners who are volunteering in and contributing to their communities,” said John Kelly, senior vice-president, Starbucks Global Responsibility, Community and Public Policy. “They saw the need for us to do more, and find a way to use our scale to bring more nourishing and ready-to-eat meals to those in need.”

Through Food Donation Connection, Starbucks stores have donated pastries not fit for sale since 2010. Starbucks worked with the service provider to develop a safe process for adding perishable food for pick-up, which will be rolled out to participating stores by this time next year, the company said.

Jane Maly, brand manager, Starbucks Food team

“When we thought about our vast store footprint across the U.S. and the impact we could make, it put a fire under us to figure out how to donate this food instead of throwing it away,” said Jane Maly, brand manager, Starbucks Food team. “The challenge was finding a way to preserve the food’s quality during delivery. We focused on maintaining the temperature, texture and flavor of the surplus food, so when it reached a person in need, they could safely enjoy it.”

The company teamed up with Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger relief and food rescue nonprofit in the United States, to develop a process for redistributing unsold food. Refrigerated vans will collect food from Starbucks stores daily to deliver to the Feeding America network.

“This food is going to make a difference, whether it’s a child not going hungry for the night or a family that’s able to enjoy a protein plate that they would not have otherwise been able to afford at Starbucks,” said Kienan McFadden, a Starbucks store manager. “Rescuing food in this way from being thrown away will change lives. It makes me proud to know partners are the heroes in this.”

Starbucks’ efforts tackle a tiny piece of America’s food waste problem, which amounts to about 80 billion lbs each year, according to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance.

“Our hope is by taking this first step, other companies will see the possibility for their participation and together we will make great strides in combating hunger,” said Cliff Burrows, group president, Starbucks U.S. and Americas. “FoodShare will not only make our partners proud, but once again will allow us to live our values.”

Starbucks isn’t the only major restaurant chain making moves to reduce food waste. Darden Restaurants, Orlando, Fla., began donating fresh, unused food to hunger relief organizations in 2003. Since its inception, Darden’s Harvest program has donated more than 77 million lbs of food, or 100 million meals, to community food banks across the country. The company works in partnership with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance to work toward an overall goal of sending zero waste to landfill.

Established in 2011, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance is an industry-wide initiative led by the Food Marketing Institute, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association. Its members include Campbell Soup, The Cheesecake Factory, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Co., McDonald’s, Tyson Foods, Nestle and Yum! Brands, among others.

In grocery stores, the “ugly produce movement” is catching on, said Kara Nielsen, culinary director and trendologist at Sterling-Rice Group, Boulder. Odd or misshapen fruits and vegetables are getting a second look, supported by concerns over waste and efforts to reduce hunger. What began as a grassroots movement in a French grocery store has more recently spread to North America, Ms. Nielsen said.

“There’s a lot of activism around this on the local level,” Ms. Nielsen said. “This overarching trend of grappling with food waste is going to keep growing… Are there other ways retailers, produce manufacturers, grocery stores can help consumers not waste their food?”

Daily Table is a not-for-profit Boston-area retail store that sells surplus food donated by growers, supermarkets, manufacturers and other suppliers.

And then there’s Daily Table, a not-for-profit Boston-area retail store that sells surplus food donated by growers, supermarkets, manufacturers and other suppliers. The concept was founded by Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, with the mission to offer healthy food at affordable prices and counteract food waste. The first Daily Table store opened last June, and there are plans to open additional stores throughout the greater Boston area and in more cities across the country. During a presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in 2014, Mr. Rauch positioned his grocery store as one solution to the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050.

“If we can recover just half of the food we are wasting — I say just half, because that is a big number and getting it all is unrealistic — we will have saved enough calories to produce 25% of all of the additional needs for 9 billion people; it gets us a quarter of the way there. This is the low-lying fruit — pun intended.”