Food Waste Reduction and Prevention
Food Waste Reduction and Prevention Resources
Food waste source reduction or prevention is the strategy of preventing food waste before it is created. An example of food waste prevention for a buffet is tracking which dishes generally have more leftovers, and either make less of the dish or substitute it with a more popular dish, rather than continuing to throw the leftovers away.
Benefits of Reduction & Prevention
Cut Down on Your Disposal Costs - By decreasing the amount of food wasted, businesses pay less to dispose of their trash.
Reduce Your Over-Purchasing & Labor Costs - In making strides to prevent food waste, you can reduce costs by purchasing only the food that will be used, or by decreasing improperly prepared foods. Additionally, reducing food waste can increase staff efficiency and reduce energy and labor associated with disposing of food.
Reduce Resource Use Associated with Food Production - There are many inputs to grow food, including water, fertilizers, pesticides, and energy. By wasting food, you are also wasting the resources that went into growing it. Additionally, 14 percent of greenhouse gases in the United States are associated with growing, manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of food.
Reduce GHG Emissions - Less food being wasted means less food being composted or landfilled; landfilled food produces methane, a very potent green house gas.
Reduction and Prevention Strategies
Do a Food Waste Assessment - The first step to reducing food waste is to measure and track the amount, type, and reason for its generation. Knowing how much and why food waste is generated will help a business create targeted food waste prevention strategies. This baseline information also serves as a marker for measuring your diversion rate and change in spending.
Depending on your goals, there are a variety of free EPA tools available to conduct a wasted food assessment.
Reduce Your Food Waste in the Kitchen:
Reduce over-purchasing of food - Create guidelines or implement a system to ensure that you only purchase what you need when you need it. This could include a "just-in-time" ordering system or a new purchasing policy.
Reduce prep waste and improperly cooked food - Look at production and handling practices and consider strategies for reducing prep waste including: improving knife skills of staff, purchasing pre-cut food, reducing batch sizes when reheating foods like soups or sauces, and training staff to reduce improperly cooked food.
Consider secondary uses for excess food - Leftover bread can become croutons, excess rice can become fried rice, leftover fruit can be a dessert topping, and vegetable trimmings can help form a base for soups, sauces, and stocks.
Ensure proper storage techniques - In order to reduce spoilage, food products should be stored in proper condition (e.g. temperature) and organized easily track inventory levels and ensure that older products are used first.
- Reduce Plate Waste - Consumer kitchen waste includes all food wastes generated once the food reaches the customer. This includes food left uneaten by customers and garnishes.
Modify menu to increase customer satisfaction and reduce food left uneaten - Food frequently left uneaten or sent back by customers can be identified by tracking wasted food,. Based on this information, managers can modify the menu and better satisfy the customers.
Change serving sizes and garnishes - Even small garnishes and improper serving sizes quickly add up to a significant amount of food waste. Strategies to reduce this waste include avoiding inedible or rarely eaten garnishes, reducing the scoop or serving size while still satisfying a customer's appetite, and using an "ask first" policy for sides.
Encourage guests to order or take only the food they can consume - Food service managers can post informational signs at buffet-style food service venues that encourage customers to take only enough food to match their appetite.
Go Trayless - A 2008 study of 25 college campuses conducted by the food services provider Aramark found that removing trays at dining halls results in as much as 25 to 30 percent less wasted food. Discourage customers from wasting food by going tray-less or by switching to smaller trays.
Source Reduction and Prevention Success Stories
Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts reduces the amount of food sent to landfills, not only through composting, and food donation, but also through food waste prevention. Harvard employs systems to prevent food waste in their kitchens, dining halls, and at events. This includes ordering food that students prefer to eat, hosting a "Clean Plate Club," implementing trayless dining, and having caterers box up extra food from events so that it can be taken to go. Learn More (PDF) (13 pp, 342 KB).
Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio implemented a successful food scrap recovery program in conjunction with other nearby venues such as Browns Stadium, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and Progressive Field. By tracking their kitchen waste daily, they managed to reduce their monthly food composted from an average of 3.5 tons down to an average of 1.5 tons. Quicken Loans Arena also composted over 30 tons of food 2011.
Hannaford Supermarkets is a full service grocer with 179 stores in the New England region. As a part of their commitment to sustainability and providing the best food to their customers, they implemented food waste prevention strategies to reduce the amount of surplus food generated. Strategies include fresh truck deliveries every day instead of forecasting out orders and a computer-assisted ordering to order appropriately based on inventory and sales predictions. Learn More (PDF) (2 pp, 1.72 MB)
University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin audited plate waste during lunch and dinner for 5 days in Spring 2008. They found students leaving an average of 5.7 oz of edible food on their plates. Food service staff worked in the front of house to engage the students with signage and by visualizing their daily waste with symbolic trash bins. Taste testing also allowed the students to sample menu items before taking the dish. This required coordination with the back of the house, where staff were also trained on portion control and tracking of pre and post consumer waste. In Fall 2008, another plate audit was conducted- this time showing only 3.9 oz of edible food waste. Then by going tray-less,the amount of food wasted went down again in Fall 2009 for a total 48 percent reduction!
At two Intel Corporation Cafes, food service staff dining facilities (operated by Bon Appetit Management Company), serving approximately 12 thousand meals per week, tracked all pre-consumer food waste on a daily basis for one year using computerized food waste tracking systems and software from LeanPath. Starting in April 2009, employees tracked all waste at a scale positioned along the regular route of disposal in the kitchen. Weighing time took less than four minutes per employee per week. With the data, the chefs looked for reuse opportunities like: using vegetable scraps for soup stock and sauce base, pureeing certain starches for thickeners in other entrees, using dairy items prepped for the coffee station to make chowder and turning leftover fruit into chutney. Over the course of the year, pre-consumer food waste was reduced by 47 percent and food costs per meal decreased by 13.2 percent. Learn More (PDF) (13 pp, 1.45 MB)
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