In the United States, more food reaches landfills than any other single material from everyday trash. That accounts for approximately 31 percent (133 billion pounds) of the overall food supply in the U.S. being wasted every year. Additionally, when food goes to the landfill, the bacteria that breaks down the food waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas believed to have an atmospheric warming potential 21 times greater than carbon dioxide. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also estimates that the U.S. spends $1 billion annually to dispose of excess food. For all of these reasons, it is important for businesses, especially those that prepare food, to do their part to reduce the amount of food they waste.
At HHS, our food service team created a program called Waste-a-Weigh, a tool that allows us to track our food waste as a company and encourage our team members to take responsibility for their individual waste. Many organizations could benefit from implementing a program like this, or from partnering with a support service provider that offers food waste accountability. Here are just a few benefits of implementing a food waste tracking program:
Tracks food waste data to identify areas for improvement
A food waste tracking program not only holds team members accountable for the amount of food waste they produce, but also allows for better identification of areas for improvement. Evaluating food waste initially determines what measurable goals the department and each individual employee should reach. From the data, it might be determined, for example, that there is an overabundance of expired produce going into the trash. As a result, the organization decides to change how often the team reviews inventory to ensure products are being used before their expiration date. This contributes greatly to meeting food waste goals and expectations moving forward.
Reduces the overproduction and over purchasing of food products
By monitoring and measuring all the food that goes to the trash—from vegetable peelings to expired inventory and leftover food at the end of meal service—teams are able to more easily see where they can make changes. Tracking waste of raw and trimmed food helps teams to determine if switching to pre-prepped products is more cost effective in the long run, and helps to resolve instances of over-ordering. This also serves as a teaching opportunity to share techniques on how to better cut and trim raw food to get the most out of the products. For example, instead of slicing off the whole top of a bell pepper and discarding it, cut around the stem so that very little of the pepper is wasted.
Improves sustainability efforts to better support the environment
Sustainable management of food is good for the economy and for the environment. Organizations that track their food, are able to find ways to prevent waste, which helps lower energy and labor costs associated with throwing away good food and products. Additionally, by keeping food out of landfills, organizations can reduce their carbon footprint and minimize the methane gas that is being created by their waste. Moreover, by only using the amount of food necessary, companies are able to conserve water, gasoline, energy, labor, and fertilizers—all items that go into the production of food.
The reduction of food waste through production processes, as well as through overproduction protocols, reduces the amount of food that ends up in local landfills while also protecting the environment. Wasting less food, in turn, allows organizations to purchase less, saving their company valuable financial resources and better serving the needs of their customers.
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