Food waste has been a prevalent issue in the United States for a long time, and it’s high time we do something about it. For my research am specifically interested in the role that restaurants play in the mass production of food waste and what some restaurants are doing to combat the issue.
40% of the $165 billion of annual food waste produced in the United States comes from restaurants. This large amount of waste comes in many forms: rotten food, unfinished meals from patrons, and food scraps from the kitchen. One group that is bringing awareness to this issue and providing solutions is Feedback. Their focus is on the creation of a more sustainable food system. Each year, they host a feast called “Feeding the 5000” where they ask high-end restaurants to repurpose food that would otherwise be thrown away and make gourmet meals to feed 5,000 locals. These events are wildly successful and show how easily discarded food can be repurposed and used to make good food. One of the participating restaurants is Blue Hill, a high-end New York City restaurant dedicated to producing as little waste as possible. They reuse and repurpose ingredients to reduce as much waste as possible, then send the rest of the waste to their farm in Massachusetts where it is fed to their livestock. This ideology inspires not only sustainability but also innovation.
Another group committed to the sustainable is of materials is GreenBlue. In response to an NPR segment discussing food waste in restaurants, they wrote an article describing some ways that local communities can combat food waste. This article echos the encouraged use of repurposed food in restaurants to make dishes. They also recommend that restaurants consider contributing their food waste to composting sites. They refer to one Charlottesville composting facility, Black Bear Composting, which receives waste from community members as well as local restaurants. These facilities could be established throughout the country to give more restaurants the opportunity to dispose of waste more sustainably.
Another solution was brought to the table by a mobile app called Copia. Copia gives restaurants a simple and efficient way to schedule pickups of excess food that is then given to organizations that feed the community. This model is beneficial to both restaurants and the community.
There are limitless possibilities when it comes to reusing and repurposing food waste, some of which have been used by restaurants like Blue Hill. It is vital that more restaurants start to be more aware of the waste that they are producing and that they search for sustainable alternatives to sending it to the landfill.