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Waste Not
New Toolkit Helps US Businesses Cut Food Waste

An alliance of food manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators has announced the release of a toolkit aimed at helping businesses in the food sector reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfill.

The Best Practices and Emerging Solutions Toolkit focuses on strategies food manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators can employ to keep food out of landfills, and to reduce food waste at the source. The toolkit was produced by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), a cross-sector industry initiative led by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

Approximately 80 billion pounds of food waste are discarded in U.S. landfills each year, FMI says. The majority of food waste is generated at the residential level, but it also can be a byproduct of manufacturing, retail and foodservice operations.

The model practices and emerging solutions were compiled from the more than 30 FWRA member companies that are focused on reducing food waste within their operations. Specific topics discussed include:

  • Tactics for overcoming obstacles to food donation such as liability and supply chain issues
  • Emerging solutions and new technologies for recycling food waste, including energy production opportunities
  • Strategic planning to avoid food waste generation

The toolkit also offers a “Getting Started” section for companies that are just beginning to consider food waste reduction strategies. Conducting a waste characterization assessment, establishing standard operating procedures and developing collaborative relationships with partners from the anti-hunger community, waste management providers and other stakeholders are among the starting points outlined.

“The sad truth is that while food is going to waste, 37 million Americans struggle to put enough food on the table to feed their families. The safe, edible food that is diverted from the waste stream to food banks through model practices showcased in the toolkit make a positive social impact on communities across the country by providing sustenance to those in need,” shared Karen Hanner, director of manufacturing product sourcing at Feeding America, and a key contributor to the toolkit.

Perhaps one of the toolkit’s most valuable features is that it includes examples and insights from companies that illustrate the strategies outlined. Because there are operational differences between food manufacturers, retailers and foodservice companies, the toolkit offers case studies that speak to the specific concerns and challenges of each sector.

Former Trader Joe's president Doug Rauch is planning his own attack on grocery waste with the opening sometime this year of the Daily Table, a new market in Dorchester, Massachusetts that will sell prepared foods made from "expired" but still edible and nutritious grocery items that would otherwise be thrown away. Rauch and other food-retailing experts point out that one of the biggest culprits in generating food waste is sell-by dates that often create the wrong impression for consumers and retailers — indicated freshness dates do not indicate products will expire and become non-consumable, but rather usually just show when their freshness has peaked. The idea behind the dates is to encourage purchase while there's still some shelf life left.

As for the food that's already been wasted, New York City Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway in January announced a pilot program to convert the thousands of pounds currently shipped to out-of-state landfills into biogas, which will heat up to 5,200 homes throughout the city and help curb roughly 90,000 metric tons of the state’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

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