Food Industry Takes on Food Waste

A group of food manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators has released a toolkit to aid food-sector businesses in reducing the amount of food waste sent to landfills. The Best Practices and Emerging Solutions Toolkit comes from 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).

“The Food Waste Reduction Alliance has been working to tackle food waste challenges within the food sector since 2011, but we know that there are companies out there that are just starting to look at the issue,” said Gail Tavill, VP, sustainable development for Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods and one of the resource’s authors. “Our goal for the toolkit is to elevate the issue of food waste within the sector and enable more companies to take action by sharing key learnings and model practices gleaned from organizations who are at the leading edge of this issue.”

About 80 billion pounds of food waste end up in U.S. landfills annually. While most food waste is generated at the residential level, it can also result from manufacturing, retail and foodservice operations. The toolkit focuses on strategies these companies can adopt to cut down on what they send to landfills.

Waste Not, Want Not

“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,” noted Karen Hanner, director of manufacturing product sourcing at Chicago-based hunger relief organization Feeding America, who also contributed to the toolkit. “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.”

Featuring information gathered from the more than 30 FWRA member companies, the toolkit contains tactics for surmounting obstacles to food donation, such as supply chain issues; emerging solutions and new technologies for recycling food waste, including energy production opportunities; and strategic planning to avoid food waste generation. It also provides a “Getting Started” section for companies that are just beginning to consider food waste reduction strategies, along with numerous real-life examples and case studies.

“One of the most valuable features of the toolkit is that it includes examples and insights from companies that illustrate the strategies outlined,” observed Jason Wadsworth, sustainability coordinator for Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc. and toolkit co-author. “What’s more, the alliance recognizes that there are operational differences between food manufacturers, retailers and foodservice companies, so there are case studies that speak to the unique concerns and challenges of each sector.”

Brandon Tidwell, sustainability manager for Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants, is another co-author.

A copy of the toolkit is available online.



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