RALEIGH (WTVD) -- If food doesn't sell on grocery store shelves, does that mean it's thrown away? Not exactly.
Most of the time it is given to the Retail Donation Program.
The program, which benefits the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, has been in operation for almost two decades.
Food bank employees head to the nearly 550 stores across more than 30 counties in the state and fill trucks up with donated frozen foods and fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
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There's nothing wrong with the donations. Employees said stores just have higher standards, which means the items do not meet what the store has set as "sellable" on the floor.
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Each morning, produce workers inspect fresh foods that are on the shelves. If they don't meet the standard of the store, they are set aside and inspected again.
"They're going to look at it and make sure it's safe, edible, and nutritious," said Caitlin Cohn with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. "And then they're going to donate it to us or one of our partners."
Jessica Wichard, who works for the food bank, said that donations are perfectly edible foods and are much-needed.
"It's the perishable stuff," Wichard said. "It's the milk. It's eggs. It's produce. It's things that are hard on a stretched budget to purchase and it's things that we don't get donated at food drives."
Across the counties served, some 21 million pounds of fresh produce and protein have been donated.
In 2018, the Food Lion on Western Boulevard in Raleigh donated 22,000 meals.
"It's huge," Cohn said. "It's really making a difference."
Retail Donation Program makes 'huge' difference for families in need, Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina says