At the Le Mars Wal-Mart, twice a week, a truck from the Food Bank of Siouxland pulls up to the back of the store. When it drives away, it's loaded with about 15 boxes of food to distribute to regional agencies helping people in need.
The food donated that is close to going out of date, but not expired, explained Loren Most, assistant manager at the Le Mars Wal-Mart.
"They want it five days before code date," he said.
Wal-Mart gives items like cakes and bread from the bakery, cheeses, and meats like chicken, pork, beef and some lunch meats, which are all frozen to preserve their freshness. The food to be donated is kept separate from the rest of Wal-Mart's products and ready for pickup.
"Nothing is out of code date, and we freeze it so it's safe," Most said. "We require they pick it up with a refrigerated truck."
Wal-Mart started donating food six months ago.
Before that, most was simply thrown away.
"The meat all went to a rendering plant, and the bakery and the rest went into the garbage," Most said. "It was kind of a waste."
Now, the donated food ends up being about 1,000 pounds each month.
"Sometimes with the holidays it's more," said Patricia Rachuy, taking a break from loading the boxes into the back of the food bank truck.
Rachuy works in receiving at the Le Mars Wal-Mart and handles their food bank donations.
"From us, it gets distributed to agencies to go out to people in need," said Drew De Kok, warehouse manager for the Food Bank of Siouxland. "We just store it."
Some agencies that use the food include the Sioux City Gospel Mission and the Community Action Agency of Siouxland, based in Sioux City.
"It's good to have people using it instead of throwing it away," Most said.
The Sioux Center Wal-Mart also gives to the Food Bank of Siouxland, but the program reaches even farther than that -- it's a national thing, Most explained.
"Wal-Mart corporate got it going," he said. "I think they got to thinking about all the product we throw away. They left it to each individual store to get connected -- they had us contact food banks."
The logistics didn't work out for Wal-Mart to give the food items to the local Christian Needs Center's food pantry.
However, local needs don't go unmet.
Cases of items like peanut butter and toilet paper are donated to the Christian Needs Center during holiday season, thanks to the local Fareway and service clubs, working together.
"They give money, we give money, and we buy a bunch of case items, whatever the Christian Needs Center needs at the time," said Dave Shaver, Fareway store manager.
That joint project will take place between now and the end of the year, he added.
At Hy-Vee, a campaign to feed families in need is going on right now.
Customers walking in the door are greeted with the sight of bags of groceries.
Each bag is loaded with items on the "want" list for the Christian Needs Center.
Customers can buy the bags, the cashier rings it up and sets it aside, then it is delivered to the local food pantry.
The receipt for the bags of groceries can be kept for tax purposes.
"We've pre-shopped it and pre-bagged it," said Sheila Hoffman, Hy-Vee retail product manager. "It's easy for the customer to give."
And they're willing to give, she said.
"Within the first five minutes I put the bags out, someone bought one," Hoffman said.