In an effort to bring greater awareness around the subject of food waste and to provide resources to food-handling entities so they may wisely manage this material for reduction, donation, animal feed and for composting, the New Mexico Recycling Coalition (NMRC) has compiled best practices for these entities to use to increase the diversion of this material.
Click the links below for online versions of the guide. Print versions available by request.
Why Diverting Food Waste Is Critical
An astonishing 40% of food is wasted in the United States each year at an annual cost of $100 billion (US Department of Agriculture). Almost 15% of American households are suffering from hunger. Hungry people do not always know where their next meal will come from and 50 million people do not have access to enough food.
A new movement has started to manage food waste with best management practices to reduce waste, feed the hungry, feed animals and create soil through the composting process. These practices have been raised to a national priority by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Both entities have designated wise food waste management as one of their top priorities in 2014. National organizations, such as the National Restaurant Association, Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute have set their own goals to create educational materials to reduce food waste. Corporations and businesses around the US, such as Walmart, prioritize the management of food waste first for donation and then for composting. In fact, Walmart is one of the largest food donors in the US.
Food represents 14.5% of the waste stream in America (EPA). From an environmental perspective, organic materials, of which food waste is a significant component, disposed of in landfills generate methane, a greenhouse gas that is twenty-one times more potent than carbon monoxide. Additionally, 13% of greenhouse gases in the US are associated with growing, manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of food.
-Assisting the Hungry
-Less Wasted Food
-Staff Pride of Food Diversion Efforts
-Building Healthy Soils with Compost
-Less Food Sent to Landfills
-Reducing Food Waste at the Source
-Less Methane Generated From Food in Landfills
-Conservation of Land & Water
-Possibility of Lowered Disposal Costs
-Tax Deduction for Food Donation
-Positive Environmental Image and Commitment
Know What Is In Your Waste Stream
An initial step for any food waste management program is to know what you are throwing away!
- Establish a baseline for measurement and know what kind of food materials your establishment is regularly disposing of.
- Know the costs associated with disposal
- Start a waste log for assessment. Check out the EPA’s tools for assessing wasted food here.
Free Waste, Energy and Water Audits for any NM Business
A free service offered by the NMSU Institute for Energy and the Environment enables any food-handling entity in NM to request assistance in evaluating and launching a food waste or recycling program.
Chris Campbell, NMSU Institute for Energy and the Environment, 505-843-4251
Kitchen Best Practices to Reduce Food Waste in Restaurants
- Adjust Purchasing Habits
- Cut Back On Food Prep Scraps and Improperly Cooked Food
- Reuse in the Kitchen
- Food Safety and Storage
- Prepared Food Management
- Donate To Your Local Food Bank
- Watch Customer’s Plates – What Is Being Ordered, Not Finished or Sent Back
- Pay Attention to Serving Sizes and Garnishes
- Matching Appetites- Provide smaller plates at buffets and remove trays
- Providing Sides – Ask First
- Downsize Menu Offerings – Less Menu Items Means Less Food Needed On Hand
- Encourage Take Home With Low-Impact and Recyclable Containers
- Use Smaller Plates
Best practice sources: NRDC Issue Paper, “Wasted: How America is Losing Up To 40% of Its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill,” August 2012; US EPA Food Reduction and Prevention: www.epa.gov/foodrecovery/fd-reduce.htm; EPA Region 6 Food Waste Reduction Resources.
Find Food Waste Assessment Tools Online
The latest tools from the EPA are here.
Donate Excess Food Waste To Serve The Hungry
In a study conducted in 2010 by the NM Association of Food Banks entitled “Hunger in New Mexico”, it was found to be a myth that the only people seeking food assistance are without work or homeless. The study found that 32% of households seeking emergency food assistance included at least one employed adult and that only 8% seeking help were homeless.
Donating food to feeding partners could be a potential opportunity for a large-scale restaurant or special event providers, where larger quantities of food is managed and could thus be donated on a regular basis. Grocery stores and food distributors have many opportunities to explore in regard to food donation.
To learn more about the possibility of food donation, contact Roadrunner Food Bank, which serves as a statewide umbrella for New Mexico’s feeding partners. www.rrfb.org
Feeding Food Waste To Animals
Another possibility for diverting food waste is to work with a local farmer or livestock producer to send appropriate food waste to be used as feed. There is guidance on regulations about feeding food waste to animals on both the state and federal level.
Before beginning a food waste to animals diversion project, check with your state or federal regulatory office to ensure your practices are safe and that the recipient farmer is registered with the state if required.
Swine Feeding Guidance: USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) Veterinary Services department at 505-761-3160.
Commercial Animal Feeding: New Mexico Department of Agriculture, Agricultural and Environmental Services Division, Feed, Seed, and Fertilizer Section, (575) 646-3107.
Diverting Food Waste for Composting
Once all appropriate food has been donated, a food-generating facility can set aside food wastes for compost.
The Value of Composting
–Compost saves water needed to grow food
–Reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides
–Promotes a healthy agricultural system
–Closes the circle: uses food waste to create nutrient-rich soil amendments, which in turn grow healthy food
–Reduces methane and leachate formation in landfills
Food Waste Composting Facilities
Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, (505) 768-2800, www.abcwua.org
Payne’s Organics Soil Yard, Santa Fe, (505) 424-0336, www.paynes.com/organic-soil-yard/
Soilutions, Albuquerque, (505) 877-0220, www.soilutions.net