Despite the CEO of 7-Eleven telling the country he was going to make sure good, unused food was given to charity programs, a WBTV investigation still found it being thrown away in Charlotte.
On a 2010 episode of the popular prime-time national CBS show "Undercover Boss", CEO Joe DePinto said he was alarmed to watch unsold food tossed in the trash at the end of the day.
"Those items are supposed to be going to charities," he said. "I don't understand it. We've got to fix that."
Few months ago -- three years after the show aired -- a viewer called Anchor Molly Grantham. She said despite that proclamation, she still watched food be wasted at local 7-Eleven's.
In order to check out that tip, a WBTV producer went with an undercover camera into various Mecklenburg and Union County stores. Employees repeatedly told him yes, they throw the food in the trash. One employee said, "We waste it".
So Molly called 7-Eleven headquarters to get answers. A spokesperson said the CEO wasn't available to talk either over the phone or via Skype, and wouldn't be. She said she and a Community Relations Manager could speak for him.
"After Undercover Boss, we did an extensive re-evaluation of our consolidated food donation model," said Spokeswoman Margaret Chabris. "We wanted to determine how we could include unpackaged bakery and expand the program to more 7-Eleven stores. During this phase, we solicited feedback and best practices from internal and external stakeholders and subject matter experts, including Feeding America, regional food banks and grassroots food agencies. The data was used to update our model, including our approved products for donation, our store-execution guidelines to support food safety, and our partner application and agreement to cover liability. We then piloted our program in select areas to learn what works and to finalize our new retail donation model."
Bottom line, the women said, is there are layers of complexity in food donation. Since the episode of "Undercover Boss" aired, the company has worked on changing its program. Pilots are rolling out now in Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago and Dallas. New York City is next. It's not yet active in Charlotte. No word when that program will be implemented here.
"But we want to do it," they both said. "It's just the right thing to do. And that's what we want to do."
The 7-Eleven corporate spokeswomen also said they were open to "exploring partnerships" with hunger-relief agencies in Charlotte. Molly asked if they'd ever heard of a smaller non-profit based out of south Charlotte called "Mel's Diner".
They hadn't. They said they appreciated the tip and would check it out.
Mel's Diner is run by Duke Oxford. We came across it while researching this story. He has 20+ volunteers.
Seven days a week they pick up food about to be thrown out from restaurants or grocery stores. It includes corporations like Pizza Hut, Harris Teeter and Whole Foods. Mel's Diner picks up everything from pizzas, breads, soups, burritos, vegetables, meats, desserts... then members of Oxford's church, Saint Matthews Catholic, add in homemade casseroles.
Oxford says they feed 1000 people a week in Charlotte. All those who benefit are vetted by Saint Matthews Catholic to make sure their need is real.