3 Ways Restaurants Tackle Food Waste
More and more, people are becoming aware of food waste as a growing issue of concern for our population. As health and wellness professionals working with clients, it is important to know that people today not only demand top quality food, they expect food suppliers to make conscious efforts to make and deliver food sustainably. That’s why addressing food waste has become center stage for restaurant operators, and restaurants are adopting strategies that are not only good for the environment and people, but also cut food costs.
For example, in 2009, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) developed the Conserve sustainability education program. While originally focusing on energy and water conservation, one of Conserve’s key issues is now food waste reduction. Through its advisory council of representatives from leading restaurant companies and partnership with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, the NRA aims to raise awareness and disseminate best practices for reducing food waste throughout the community.
The Food Waste Reduction Alliance, an initiative launched in 2011 by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute, the NRA and over 30 food companies, focuses on reducing food waste by reducing the amount of waste generated, increasing the amount of safe, nutritious food donated to those in need and recycling unavoidable food waste. Here are some examples of restaurants successfully using these strategies:
Reduce. It’s estimated that 4 to 10 percent of food purchased by restaurant operators is thrown out before it is plated. Rising food prices makes minimizing waste and maximizing ingredient yield very important. One very interesting New York restaurant “pop-up,” wastED, was built to demonstrate that restaurants shouldn’t throw away food that could be eaten. WastED’s guest chefs collaborated with local farmers, fisherman, producers and distributors to create delicious, gourmet food out of ugly vegetables and peels, leftover rice at the bottom of a sake barrel after fermentation and liquid drained from canned garbanzo beans.
Hunger Relief. Yum! Brands (the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) is committed to feeding people instead of landfills through its Harvest program. For over 20 years, Yum! Brands has partnered with the Food Donation Connection, to donate over 180 million pounds of food to more than 3,000 local food banks and other charitable organizations. Each restaurant establishes a community partnership with a local hunger relief agency who receives free food in exchange for picking up the donations and committing to safe food handling practices.
Recycle. About three-quarters of 1,000 full-service and quick-service owners surveyed by the NRA said they recycle fryer oil, fats and grease. In Atlanta, Ga., the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy opened a biodiesel fueling station, selling fuel made from fryer oil from over 200 area restaurants. Spent fryer grease is collected from the local foodservice operators, made into biodiesel at a local production facility and sold to local consumers for clean energy transportation. Another example of restaurant food recycling is restaurants partnering with local community gardens and offering used coffee grounds for soil amendment and to reduce the amount of organic waste being sent to landfills, such as McDonald’s “Good Neighbor, Good Grounds” composting pilot program.
As people become increasingly interested in tackling food waste, health professionals have the opportunity to provide education around food waste best practices across the food supply chain – from farms to restaurants to food banks to our tables.