Leanpath CEO Andrew Shakman shared his view of the past, present and future of food waste at the 25th annual Chef's Culinary Conference at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
So much of Leanpath’s early years were spent educating the foodservice industry--and ourselves-about the importance of preventing food waste.
Today, there is a lot of positive momentum in food waste prevention initiatives. Global adoption of food waste as a critical issue has brought a wave of capital backed entrepreneurs to the table to solve the problem from every angle. UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 - 50% food waste reduction by 2030 - is a rallying point for leaders in business, government, and the non-profit sector. Massive private and public brands continue to make bold commitments to food waste prevention and are beginning to back that up by rolling out food waste programs at scale, changing expectations in the industry about the veracity with which we attack the food waste crisis.
Simultaneously, there is some course correction that needs to be done. The surge of bright new talent in food waste is without a doubt valuable. Waste stream management techniques like donation, industrial uses, energy conversion, and composting keep waste out of landfills, but they don't eliminate the upstream inputs that cost our planet dearly, like production cost, transportation, and packaging. When we create a seemingly safe place to put food waste, we in some ways excuse it. Similarly, when we donate overproduced food, or compost everything that can't be consumed, we create structures that are dependent on food waste, forcing us to overproduce to donate, turning our teams into philanthropists with our food dollars.
We have to find a balance where we do the things that are good and important, but we're not skipping the thing that is most important, which is dealing with food waste at the source - prevention.
We are moving toward a “circular” future, where food waste will be an input rather than simply an output to the economy. While we get better as an interrelated system of resource streams, we need to be ready to tell our stories publicly and transparently. The story is not always going to be pretty, but it has the power to change social norms and get people to do things differently and think differently.
Leanpath will continue to be a partner as the foodservice industry enters this bold future.