At Leanpath, tracking food waste on an hourly basis around the world, we’ve watched as COVID-19 has been felt across the global foodservice industry. As we’ve seen many operations forced to shut down abruptly, we’ve also seen an associated spike in food waste levels. We’ve had a unique vantage point from which to watch this set of adverse changes.
We’re very excited to celebrate Leanpath’s 15th birthday in 2019. While much has changed since 2004, we’ve remained dedicated to a single challenge: preventing food waste. And as we recently announced, we're currently preventing food waste at a rate of 1 pound every 2 seconds.
The momentum around food waste reduction continued throughout 2017. The high-profile documentary “Wasted!” debuted, adding celebrity chef voices to the effort. The Natural Resources Defense Council released a pair of comprehensive reports detailing food waste in major U.S cities. The World Wildlife Fund partnered with the hospitality industry to release the Hotel Kitchen toolkit designed to encourage the measurement of food waste, the establishment of food donation strategies, and the diversion of food waste from landfills. From the Food Waste Fair in New York City to London Food Tech Week, thought leaders and innovators congregated around the world to discuss and strategize. And even Pope Francis weighed in: “We are called to propose a change in lifestyles, in the use of resources, in production criteria, including consumption that, with regard to food, involves growing losses and waste. We cannot resign ourselves to saying someone else will take care of it.”
Now, looking to build on that momentum in 2018, we’d like to suggest a resolution for anyone concerned with reducing food waste, but particularly the foodservice industry: move from a culture of diverting food waste to one of preventing food waste.
More specifically, we urge organizations in the foodservice industry to continue to move up the EPA’s Food Waste Hierarchy. A decade ago, the cutting edge of food waste prevention was a restaurant starting a composting program (which is just above sending your waste to the landfill on the hierarchy). But foodservice has kept moving its way up: repurposing used fryer oil for fuel, separating excess for animal feed, and setting up donation programs for unused food, which gets the industry almost to the top of the hierarchy.
Anthony Bourdain’s noble 2017 documentary, Wasted!, about the systemic blight of global food waste, is a welcome and high-profile spotlight. Reducing food waste is a moral and environmental imperative. We throw out hundreds of millions of tons of food while millions of people go hungry. That wasted food contributes tons of greenhouse gases to our atmosphere and leads to trillions of gallons of wasted water.
Food waste reduction starts with prevention—preventing the food waste from happening in the first place is the clear optimal solution from a social, environmental and economic standpoint. And the first step in prevention is measurement—understanding exactly how much food is being wasted and why, so you know where you’re starting from, can identify opportunities for improvement, and can easily track progress over time.
In the ReFED Report, A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent, waste tracking and analytics is listed as one of the most effective solutions for food waste prevention by waste diversion potential. For foodservice institutions and restaurants, there is a very compelling reason to act, as we know that “what gets measured, gets managed.” And automated platforms, such as LeanPath, make it easy to track waste, collect detailed data and photos, and take action on your biggest opportunities for prevention.
Food waste prevention efforts have a proven and strong ROI—as much as 10x or more—over a relatively short period of 6-12 months. However, a common challenge many organizations face is how to fund the effort to start, since an upfront investment of time and resources is required to achieve the positive bottom-line impact.
Here we offer 5 tips to spark some creative thinking for your upfront program investment.
For organizations of all sizes: