For the next several weeks, NMRA will be running a series of blogs focused on sustainability in the food service industry to educate our community on how we can all do more to reduce food waste and make our industry more sustainable overall.

According to EPA statistics from 2012, almost 15% of the waste stream is food waste, second only to paper and cardboard items. Yet, only 3% of food waste is recovered. Since this category has been tracked, the percentage has increased yearly. Working to change the tide on this statistic will ensure less food is wasted in the first place, more people can be fed, and what is left-over can be used as animal feed or to enrich our soils as compost.

The EPA has established a hierarchy (shown above) to provide guidance on how best to recover food waste for the greatest value. The most preferred method is source reduction, which prevents waste before it is created. The least preferable is incineration or landfill. This guide will provide resources on four opportunities to manage food to decrease the generation of waste: 

  • Food Waste Reduction (Source Reduction): Tactics outlining how to reduce food waste generation 
  • Food Donation (Feed Hungry People): Best practices to donate food to local food banks 
  • Animal Feed (Feed Animals): Guidelines on diverting food waste for use as animal feed 
  • Composting: An option for setting aside food waste for composting

The Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), comprising the Food Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association, released a document entitled, “Best Practices and Emerging Solutions Toolkit” in the Spring of 2014. The Alliance was formed in 2011 with the goal to increase donations to food banks and decrease the amount of food sent to landfills.  

The FWRA commissioned a study by the consulting firm BSR to identify the amount of food being wasted and from what sector that food waste was being generated. The largest sector generating food waste was residential with almost half the food waste coming from households (47%). The second largest food waste generator sector is restaurants (37%), followed by the institutional sector (11%), which represents hospitals, schools and hotels. 

Another study found the different types of food that are lost. Fresh fruit and vegetables were the primary class that saw the most waste with 22% of loss. This category was then followed by dairy (19%), meat, poultry and fish (18%) and then grain products.

Stay tuned for next week to learn about the different food diversion avenues available and how to access them. 

Find all of this information and more here: food-waste-management-restaurantsweb.pdf (