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By Lucy Bayly

Starbucks announced Tuesday that its stores will all be part of a nationwide program to donate surplus food in the form of ready-to-eat meals for food banks.

The Seattle-based company has been part of a pastry donation program with Food Donation Connection (FDC) since 2010, and sought to expand that effort throughout its 7,600 U.S.-based stores.

“The challenge was finding a way to preserve the food’s quality during delivery,” said Jane Maly, Starbucks Food brand manager, in a press release announcing the initiative.

Starbucks worked with FDC and the nonprofit organization Feeding America to research ways to maintain food safety, and will deploy a fleet of refrigerated vans to pick up and redistribute surplus foods every day.

The coffee chain estimates that the program, Starbucks@FoodShare, will provide as many as five million meals a year, with a goal to hit 50 million meals by 2021.

“Like many of our social impact initiatives, the innovation and inspiration comes from our partners who are volunteering in and contributing to their communities,” explained Starbucks' senior vice president John Kelly in the release.

“We applaud Starbucks for its leadership and commitment to ending hunger,” said Feeding America’s CEO Diana Aviv in a statement. “Their program will have a tremendous impact in communities, and it is also a testament of how we can work together to help more individuals and families achieve food security.”