Changing Behavior to Reduce Food Waste in Restaurants

This post-Thanksgiving NPR segment discusses the massive amount of food waste produced by restaurants and their customers. Though the National Restaurant Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the Food Marketing Institute have formed the Food Waste Reduction Alliance to tackle this problem, they admit they still have a long way to go. According to the report, a half pound of food waste is created for every meal served in a restaurant. That includes both the waste from the kitchen as well as what’s leftover on the patron’s plate. Wasting food while many people go hungry is one problem, but also consider the water, fertilizers, pesticides, and fuel needed to produce, package, and transport that food, and then add on the potent greenhouse gas methane emissions generated by all that food waste sent to landfill, and food waste becomes a much bigger problem.

Solving all of these problems is not a mystery. In fact, there are a lot of great practices that can easily be put in place. The best solution, not surprisingly, is spurring behavioral changes in chefs, restaurant workers, and the public so that food waste gets diverted to clever uses in the kitchen, food banks and soup kitchens, or composting facilities—not to landfill.

Composting facilities are springing up all around the country and are trying their best to convince restaurants to separate out their food waste instead of trashing it. Our own Black Bear Composting near Charlottesville has a small but growing clientele of local restaurants and schools (as well as GreenBlue). How great would it be to see the Food Waste Reduction Alliance pursue the US Composting Council or industrial composting facilities like Black Bear or Seattle’s Cedar Grove as new members? And what about getting some celebrity chefs to speak up about this and make changes in their own kitchens, the way many spoke out against serving longline-caught swordfish? Do you have any other ideas for how we can reduce food waste in our restaurants?

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