Striving for “Zero Waste” -- And Helping Animals in the Process


by Kelli King, Philanthropy Relations Manager

At the Harry Chapin Food Bank we strive to ensure food does not go to waste. As part of our ongoing efforts to become a zero-waste facility, it’s encouraging to know that food deemed inedible can be used to sustain the work of the Octagon Wildlife Refuge in Punta Gorda.

Octagon is a rescue home for abused and unwanted exotic animals.  For more than 30 years, Octagon has saved thousands of animals such as lions, tigers, bears, birds, reptiles and primates.

The animals that live at Octagon were born and raised in captivity as pets or to be used in a business. They have never lived in the wild, and zoos will not care for them because of their physical or mental conditions. Octagon offers a place for these animals to live out the rest of their lives in a caring and safe manner.

Octagon began receiving donations from the Harry Chapin Food Bank in 2008. The food that we donate to Octagon is food that has been inspected and deemed to be “unfit for human consumption.” This includes meat that has been opened or thawed as well as other perishable food prohibited from distribution by regulatory agencies. All of the meat and the majority of the other perishables that the Food Bank receives are individually sorted and inspected by trained Food Bank volunteers to serve as an extra line of defense in our food safety program.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank is one of only a few Food Banks nationally that have received a superior rating by the AIB (American Institute of Baking), considered by many to be the gold standard of inspection agencies. The AIB inspection is rigorous and voluntary, and demonstrates our commitment to food safety. The Harry Chapin Food Bank is also inspected by the Lee County Health Department, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Feeding America, the Food Bank’s national affiliate. All Food Bank staff handling food (warehouse, drivers, etc.) are ServSafe certified.

Fortunately, most of the donations we receive are safe for human consumption. In fact, only 2% of the 18.7 million pounds of food we received last fiscal year was considered “unfit for human consumption.” Last year, Octagon received about 220,000 pounds of unusable food from the Harry Chapin Food Bank. Octagon uses more than 500 pounds of raw meat and approximately 200 pounds of produce daily to ensure the animals have adequate nutrition.

We are happy to share those resources not suitable for people with Octagon and ensure these items serve a useful purpose.  

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