Chicago Homeless Shelters Offer Starbucks to Guests

Starbucks donates select unsold menu items to the shelters every night

A Starbucks Mercato sandwich, along with hot dogs, corn and breakfast sandwiches, sit as an option for guests of the Franciscan House shelter.

Three of Chicago's largest homeless shelters have banished bologna in favor of seared steak, za'atar chicken and perhaps, an extra helping of dignity.

The shelters, which traditionally serve a hot sit-down dinner and breakfast, often handed a peanut butter sandwich or other brown-bag lunch fare to visitors as they left each morning. But now, a partnership with Starbucks through Feeding America and the Greater Chicago Food Depository means that homeless Chicagoans get an upgrade to that critical daytime meal. The partnership potentially will expand to other U.S. cities as Starbucks' lunch offerings grow.

Unsold sandwiches and salads from Starbucks' Mercato lunch menu, currently only available in Chicago, are now directed to the three shelters nightly: Franciscan House in East Garfield Park, the shelter run by Olive Branch Mission in West Pullman and Pacific Garden Mission on the near West Side. Shelter managers say that the packaged meals, which range from a Cuban sandwich to green goddess avocado salads, have given those who stay at the shelters a much-requested break from the traditional PB&J they would leave with in the morning, reduced food waste, and freed up hours of sandwich-making traditionally handled by volunteers.

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Read more about the homeless shelters offering Starbucks on Chicago Tribune.