Prevent Food Waste

 

Food waste is edible food that is disposed of instead of eaten.

About 40% of food produced in the United States goes to waste each year, with Californians throwing away nearly 6 million tons of food waste annually. Food waste is a big problem that can be mitigated with your help! While Food Recovery is important for the surplus edible food that you do generate, there are many opportunities for you to prevent surplus edible food in the first place. The EPA suggests that prevention is the best way to tackle food waste.

Food Recovery Hierarchy

    Supermarkets and grocery stores throw away 10% of all wasted food in the United States every year, due to reasons ranging from overstocked product displays, cosmetic expectations, sell-by dates, damaged goods, outdated promotional items, and the offering of fresh, ready food until closing time. The food retail industry spends billions of dollars in food waste costs; the USDA estimates that supermarkets lose $15 billion a year in unsold fruits and vegetables alone. 

     

    These helpful resources below can reduce the amount of food wasted at your location:

      Businesses often do not realize how much food goes to waste. Keeping records of how much surplus edible food you produce will help you see opportunities to reduce food waste and cut costs. Tracking wasted food is always the first step and can be as simple as tracking waste for one day, a week, or a month. You can begin a food waste assessment using the U.S.EPA’s tools

      PURCHASING - Increase communication with suppliers around food waste (Suggestions from the Safe Surplus Toolkit

      • Take an accurate inventory and base orders on what you currently have

      • You can use just-in-time purchasing software to reduce unnecessary purchasing

      • Buy surplus or odd-shaped produce from farms or wholesalers where they would otherwise be wasted and sell them at a discount 

      • Send order estimates more frequently to suppliers to better align production planning with order timings 

      • Start or increase regular communication with suppliers 

      • Revise your supply contracts to require that suppliers have a food waste reduction or food donation program 

      • Change contracts to include methods to prevent food loss (e.g., use innovative packaging such as vacuum-sealed meat) 

      • Make food waste reduction a key performance indicator in operations, supply chain, and employee performance

      PACKAGING - Packaging improvements can reduce waste by delaying spoilage, keeping food quantities at the right size, and communicating information about food to consumers. See ways packaging can ensure complete consumption on ReFED’s Package Design page​​​​​​​

      CLARIFY DATE LABELLING - To reduce customer confusion, work with your supply chain to clearly label or define the difference between safety-based and quality-based date labels. New date labels may allow more foods to safely stay on your shelves for longer periods of time.

      PREPARATION AND STORAGE FOR THE DELI AND BAKERY (Suggestions from the Safe Surplus Toolkit

      • Use leftovers from the day before

        • Steak can be used for beef stew the next day 

      • Train staff on knife skills to make more efficient knife cuts to prevent waste 

      • Use as much of the food as possible

        • Cook up carrot greens and don’t peel cucumbers or potatoes 

      • Reconstitute stalky vegetables that have wilted by immersing them in warm water (100 ̊F) for 15 minutes 

      • Marinate meats to extend their shelf life for a few more days 

      • Refresh staff on storage techniques for different foods (e.g., don’t store tomatoes and lettuce in the same container or near each other) 

      • Use see-through storage containers to easily see what is available and fresh 

      • Cook, freeze, juice, or otherwise process foods that are approaching the end of their peak freshness to prolong their useful life

      SET UP AND DISPLAY

      • Piling produce high can end in damage and higher labor costs. Reducing stock levels will keep produce fresh for longer. Instead of using a pile of produce, have a support system that makes it look like a pile to keep produce fresher

      • Create a discount shelf area for ripe, nearly expired, discontinued, or slightly damaged food 

      • Allow prepared foods to run out near store closing. Track these items and only make as much as you can sell

      As you would expect, wasted food means wasted money. Every year, the restaurant industry spends billions of dollars in food waste costs, estimated at 28-35% of restaurant sales. A Food Waste Reduction Alliance study found that 84.3% of unused food in restaurants ends up as waste, when it could have easily been prevented. 

      These helpful resources below can reduce the amount of food wasted at your location!

      Check out CalRecycle’s food waste reduction page for restaurants for helpful tips and general resources.

        ANALYZE YOUR FOOD WASTE

        A food waste assessment will identify what is actually being thrown away. By getting to know what you throw away, you can better understand the areas of excess and address them each individually. This guide from the EPA provides detailed instructions for conducting a comprehensive food waste assessment

        PREPARATION AND STORAGE (Suggestions from the Safe Surplus Toolkit

        • Reduce batch sizes by preparing meals ahead of time and storing them for future use 

        • Use cook-to-order instead of bulk-cooking all day or toward the end of the day 

        • Repurpose leftover kitchen food following food safety guidelines like reusing day-old bread for croutons or leftover vegetables as a pizza topping

          • Train staff on knife skills to make more efficient knife cuts to prevent waste 

        • Use as much of the food as possible

          • Cook up carrot greens and don’t peel cucumbers or potatoes 

        • Reconstitute stalky vegetables that have wilted by immersing them in warm water (100 ̊F) for 15 minutes 

        • Freeze surplus and fresh fruits and veggies near the end of peak freshness for later use instead of throwing them away 

        • Marinate meats to extend their shelf life for a few more days 

        • Finish preparation at the line. Do not finish the food item until it’s ready to go on the line so you can use leftover ingredients more easily in different recipes later 

        • Refresh staff on storage techniques for different foods (e.g., don’t store tomatoes and lettuce in the same container or near each other) 

        • Use see-through storage containers to allow staff to see what is available and to keep an eye on freshness 

        • Eliminate garnishes that typically don’t get eaten

        PURCHASING (Suggestions from the Safe Surplus Toolkit

        • Use reusable bottles instead of single-use condiment packets

        • Adjust menus to reduce frequently uneaten or wasted items

        • Buy bruised or odd-shaped/sized produce at a discount 

        • Ask for your suppliers’ policies for food waste. Simply inquiring will show suppliers it’s a priority

        • Reach out to other businesses to exchange ideas for source reduction methods

        • Do regular inventory checks or increase their frequency to reduce spoilage

        • Buy local foods to minimize environmental impacts through reduced storage time and transportation

        SERVING  (Suggestions from the Safe Surplus Toolkit

        • If you’re a buffet restaurant, go trayless! This will limit customers to take only what can fit on a plate and to make a conscious decision to go back for more

        • Consider a “pay-per-item” system instead of “all-you-can-eat" system

        • Use smaller plates, bowls, and serving scoops to discourage over-plating

        • Offer different meal sizes and portions. Don’t limit small portions to just children

        • Don’t automatically put bread or chips and salsa on the table. First, ask them if they would like these items

        • Ask if a customer wants a side item, instead of automatically providing sides

        ENGAGING WITH CUSTOMERS  

        • Build brand image and customer loyalty through food waste prevention efforts

        • Encourage customers to take home their leftover food
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