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Chick-fil-A Cookbook Cover 1.jpg Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A's new digital cookbook was launched to raise awareness about its Shared Table program.,

Chick-fil-A launches its first cookbook to support Shared Table program

Chick-fil-A is building more awareness about its Shared Table program, which connects restaurant operators to local nonprofits for excess food donations.

According to the United State Department of Agriculture, food waste is estimated to be 30 to 40% of the domestic food supply. This equates to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food.

Simultaneously, about 34 million Americans struggle with food insecurity. The restaurant industry is full of examples of brands and programs trying to reconcile this reality. Chick-fil-A is one such example. The company’s focus on donating surplus food at its restaurants has become more streamlined and intentional thanks to its Shared Table program.

Chick-fil-A formally launched Shared Table in 2012 with an objective of connecting operators to soup kitchens, food shelters and nonprofits in their local communities so they could donate excess food from their restaurants to the organizations. Since then, 23 million meals have been donated to those in need across 47 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Nearly 2,000 domestic restaurants (about 80%) participate in Shared Table and the goal is to get to 100% while also diverting 25 million pounds of food waste from landfills by 2025.

To achieve these goals, the company is increasing awareness internally and externally. The external piece includes a new digital cookbook, called “Extra Helpings: Inspiring Stories and Imaginative Recipes from Chick-fil-A’s Shared Table,” with 26 recipes featuring repurposed food from Chick-fil-A created by local nonprofit partners. It is the company’s first-ever cookbook, and it also includes stories from those partners about the program’s impact. That impact is what’s motivating the company to sharpen its focus on the program 11 years after its launch.

“We have a responsibility to do this as a restaurant company. One hundred percent of counties in this country are dealing with food insecurity. We won’t be the ones who solve this, but our role is to be a part of the solution,” Brent Fielder, senior director of corporate social responsibility at Chick-fil-A, said during a recent interview.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to eradicate food waste all together, but even as forecasting tools become more sophisticated, that task is an impossibility at this point.

“The reality is, unless we can predict when customers are coming in and what they’re ordering, there is always going to be surplus, so we’re focused on minimizing that surplus, and when we do have it, letting our operators know that sending it to a landfill is not a great option,” Fielder said. “At the end of the day, everyone is going to have surplus food, so the operator has a choice, they can either waste it or donate it. When they donate it, nonprofits are able to repurpose it.”

Chick-fil-A has strived to make sure the program is as easy as possible for operators’ buy-in. Fielder said the company provides infrastructure, while operators have the freedom to identify organizations in their communities that could benefit most. A third-party company helps ensure food safety standards are met, while the company tracks the data. In addition to simplifying participation requirements, Fielder said momentum is also coming from changing consumer trends.

“We’re seeing more behavior, maybe in the past 10 years, that consumers care more about what companies are doing and they want companies to do what’s right,” he said.

This trend is reflected in recent McKinsey and NielsenIQ data. That said, Fielder notes this work is part of something bigger, something he calls Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose. Beyond Chick-fil-A, he believes the industry at large is in a good position to be a part of the solution.

“As an industry, we come face-to-face with more human beings than any other industry on a daily basis,” he said. “If we can think about this work than more than just a transaction, we can be a force for good in a world that desperately needs good.”

How one operator ignited the Shared Table program

Shared Table’s growth is remarkable when considering how the program came about in the first place. Marshall Wilkins, who has been a Chick-fil-A operator for 43 years in the Knoxville, Tenn., market, said the idea came to him in the early 1990s.

“As a businessman, my goal is to make a profit and to make a profit, we try not to have waste,” he said during a recent interview. “I was watching waste from my restaurant being thrown in a trash can and that just never made sense to me, especially as I would go to downtown Knoxville – or any community in the U.S., really – and see malnutrition and insecurity.”

Wilkins contacted the Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries and asked if they could use his restaurant’s excess food in their soup kitchens and they agreed. The relationship grew to the point where Wilkins teamed up with Knoxville-based Food Donation Connection to help with logistics and tracking.

“That made things easier and gave it a lot of energy and then I was able to talk to a lot of other operators and get them on board,” Wilkins said.

The idea began to spread and eventually made its way to Chick-fil-A’s headquarters before it was formalized in 2012. The company continues to use Food Donation Connection for the program’s logistics. Wilkins said he is humbled that his idea has gained so much momentum within the system, and now realizes the return on investment is much bigger than he initially imagined.

“In the restaurant, the program helps you manage waste and adds more control to the business every week. Also, from a dollars-and-cents perspective, there is a tax deduction,” Wilkins said. “But knowing that you’re helping someone is the biggest return. In my heart, and I hope others’ hearts, people aren’t doing this because of what they can get out of it, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Extra Helpings

“Extra Helpings” is free to access for anyone interested in learning more about how to reduce food waste at home. The recipes in the cookbook were created by Shared Table nonprofit partners, as well as members of Chick-fil-A’s culinary team. Visit for more information.

Also, to celebrate the launch of the free cookbook, Chick-fil-A is also donating $1 million to Feeding America, Second Harvest in Canada, and seven Shared Table nonprofit partners.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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