June 04 2014 – Robert Fiumara
For those in the food industry, there is little that brings greater joy than feeding hungry people. But what if, as an industry, we equally sought to prevent others from going hungry? Everyone in the food industry knows that a lot of food gets wasted from the beginning moments of production to the moment that the food is put out on a serving plate. In fact, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations recently discovered that about a third of the world’s food produced for human consumption goes to waste!
Where Does Food Waste Happen?
Much of this happens in delivery and transportation, as most foods are produced in large quantities and shipped as such. In such cases, spoilage occurs during transit. Likewise, because food is so inexpensive in the United States, many consumers will opt into larger sized orders or food products, and simply throw out that which they cannot finish. It’s just simpler to spend the extra dollar for the larger side order and be satisfied than it is to worry about portion needs. To further exacerbate this problem, because of the commercial nature of food, and the impossible expectations that many Americans have for “perfect food”, many perfectly fine pieces of food are left to spoil because they have mild or moderate visual imperfections.
What can you as a chef or restaurant owner do to reduce any of this? The answers are actually simpler than you’d think. Preparing meals with food items that are visually imperfect will often remove the perceived imperfection and utilize food that would have otherwise gone to waste. Likewise, you can opt into local produce and create more localized connections to the foods your produce, which cuts down on spoilage that occurs in delivery or transit.
What You Can Do To Reduce Food Waste
In this same vein, you can better control the portion sizes you offer to your customers, or let the customers choose their portions, rather than dictate them by set size standards. Likewise, anything that is left by the customer or consumer could be used for compost, and anything that has been prepped but not cooked and/or served can be resealed and stored for later use. Furthermore, many towns and cities offer programs that reduce food waste. From recycling used vegetable oil to use as fuel to donating leftover food to local food banks, you’ll find there are many options, especially for independent restaurant owners.
Food waste is naturally a huge concern for cooks and restaurateurs everywhere, as not only does it cost them and their business money, but it also perpetuates world hunger. Preventing waste not only saves you money on food and transportation costs, it is also good for the planet. Doing what you can to reduce food waste is just good business. X