What would've been destined for the trash can is now finding a much greater purpose and nourishing hungry people unsure of where their next meal will come from.

The Flagstaff Family Food Center truck makes its daily rounds to stores like Whole Foods, Target and Sprouts, collecting food items that are still edible, but close to or have surpassed their expiration date.

"Seventy percent of what we load here at Sprouts will be used today, and the other 30 percent will all be dispersed by tomorrow," said Tim Joyce, a program manager for the Flagstaff Family Food Center.

About 500 meals are served at the center each day. Items are placed in lunch sacks and handed out, placed in boxes for pick up or cooked into hot meals served in the evening.

Robert Zappanti is one Flagstaff resident who relies on these free meals to simply survive. He has been coming to the food center for nine years.

"Food is expensive and restaurants are not cheap, either," Zappanti said. "Some people don't have any money for food or food stamps, so it's hard to survive sometimes."

The Whole Foods store donates, on average, about 20 to 30 pounds of food a day to the center.

"If there wasn't a food center a lot of this food would go into the trash, which is a shame," Mariana Cruz Uribe of Whole Foods Market said. "So, it's really great to be able to partner with someone who can not only feed families here in Flagstaff, but keep things out of the landfill."

In addition, the store encourages shoppers to purchase and donate items into bins that also go directly to the shelter.

The need at the center is year-round, but does spike in the summer when children are out of school and parents have to provide one or two more meals.

The center accepts food donations, frozen meat and monetary donations. Visit www.hotfood.org to donate or learn more about their programs.