Pizza Hut Harvest: Fighting food waste, hunger and greenhouse emissions one slice of pizza at a time

Apr 27, 2016

The following is a Guest Blog by Tyler Hampton, Yum! Brands Foundation

We’ve all been there. That point when you realize you ordered too much food at a restaurant or bought more groceries than you can eat before expiration.  Throwing away perfectly good food knowing that there are plenty of hungry people out there who could benefit from a hot meal, you might feel a moment of guilt when you chuck your leftovers in the trash. In these instances we all have a hand to play in the food waste epidemic and it’s no different for global businesses.

The sad fact is that 30- 40% of all food is wasted each year. Yet, 1 in 9 people suffer from chronic hunger. The simple math says that hunger is a solvable problem and a more connected food chain would provide enough sustenance for everyone. As the largest pizza company in the world, it is Pizza Hut’s privilege and responsibility to fight waste and hunger wherever we can and since the early 90’s we’ve been using the Harvest food donation program to help combat these two crippling global issues.

Pizza Hut has a strong legacy with food donations, dating back to 1992 when we became the first company to create a national surplus food donation program.  At that time, Bill Reighard, a former Pizza Hut/PepsiCo executive, decided to leave the company and found Food Donation Connection (FDC).  With Pizza Hut as his first client, Bill thought he’d be coordinating pizza donations forever. But now, FDC is the go-to expert in all types of food donation coordination, working with many brands in over 17,000 restaurants. At Pizza Hut, we donate error pizzas, no-show pizzas and leftover buffet items that are perfectly safe to eat. Partner charities make weekly pickups and then distribute to families living in the area. To date, FDC has helped Pizza Hut coordinate more than 94 million pounds of donated food, and we continue to donate 5 million pounds to over 2,500 domestic charities each year.

Since we began our Harvest initiative in 1992 it’s been encouraging to see that the domestic food waste conversation is changing for the better and receiving the attention it deserves. There are more companies donating their surplus food thanks in part to new federal incentives. In December 2015, Congress passed the PATH Act which allows companies to earn an enhanced tax deduction for donating selected surplus property, including food. The federal government also protects good faith donors from civil and criminal liability, should the product later cause harm to its recipient, with the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. These laws create an environment where donors can feel comfortable making food donations and are even encouraged to do so. To quote the book Food Foolish: The Hidden Connection Between Food Waste, Hunger and Climate Change by John Mandyck and Eric Schultz, “As financial returns begin to align with our better humanitarian and environmental impulses, the global food chain is a process ripe for rapid and dramatic improvement.”

We like to say that Harvest feeds people, not landfills. When food is tossed in a landfill, it quickly breaks down and becomes a significant source of methane which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world next to the U.S. and China. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists donation as the second best way to reduce food waste next to source reduction. We are happy to report that Pizza Hut Harvest donations have diverted more than 1 million metric tons of methane from the environment since 1992.

As a global restaurant leader in surplus food donations we don’t want to just give, we also want to leverage our voice to raise awareness for the food waste epidemic and partner with other companies to make measurable impact.  Which is why our parent company, Yum! Brands including KFC, has pledged to donate 10 million pounds of food in 2016 as part of the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. We’re also partnering with the National Restaurant Association as part of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance in a joint effort with the Grocery Manufacturers Association to combat food waste. This alliance will only grow stronger by sharing the Harvest program model with other national brand restaurant companies.

We take pride in knowing that Harvest helps people every day, folks who are sacrificing their food money to pay rent or keep the lights on. Deborah in Ohio, for example, works part time because she has a house full of young children. Receiving Pizza Hut donations from her local food pantry are a huge help so she can focus on paying other expenses, plus the pizza serves as a nice treat for her family!  A charity partner in Harlan, KY called Christ’s Hands recently reached out to thank Pizza Hut for the more than 33,000 meals they’ve received since 2008. Hearing from these partners and seeing the faces of those who benefit from these donations really makes the Harvest program worthwhile.

If you’d like to learn more about Harvest please visit and stay tuned as we fight both global food waste and hunger by expanding the program internationally!