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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

Reduction and Prevention Strategies

Source Reduction and Prevention Success Stories

Harvard University

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

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

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.

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) Exit EPA

Disclaimer of Endorsement: Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.


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