The amount of food the U.S. wastes has become increasingly significant as the population continues to grow and food resources are needed. Approximately 30 to 40 percent of food is wasted in the U.S. each year while about 42 million Americans are food insecure, according to the USDA. This has led government agencies and independent companies to implement food waste initiatives to combat the national issue.
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The unnecessary disposal of food is in part caused by a cultural fixation on the aesthetic quality of food. Americans want their meals to not only taste good but look good as well, which has led food service and manufacturing facilities to waste valuable products in an effort to adhere.
Power Knot, LLC, based in California, has recognized this issue by creating food composters for commercial and industrial facilities seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. The company’s LFC (Liquid Food Composter) is a fully-enclosed automatic composting machine that liquefies food waste and safely discharges it into the sewage system. These composters have been implemented in establishments including food preparation companies, restaurants, supermarkets, and sporting arenas.
“Being green often does save money,” says Iain Milnes, CEO of Power Knot. “If a company is paying $1,000 a month to get rid of their organic waste, our composters will reduce that expenditure and the company will see a huge payback.”
The benefits of “going green” have been recognized by many food corporations: 15 major U.S. companies have joined the USDA’s Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions coalition, pledging specific steps to reduce 50 percent of food loss during their operations by 2030.
Each Champion establishes a baseline defining the current amount of food wasted during operations and report on progress toward the goal based on the Food Loss and Waste Protocol, which is available to download for free. The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is a global multi-stakeholder partnership by World Resources Institute and the 3GF 2013 Summit, a collaboration between governments and businesses to promote long‐term global, inclusive green growth.
Sodexo, LCC, one Champion in the coalition, has built its approach by raising awareness to its customers and employees, improving back-of-house processes, and sharing expertise with clients and external industry partners.
“Tracking food waste identifies where and how we can improve our processes in the kitchen—such as better ordering, better production skills, and better storage,” Sodexo’s vice president of sustainability and corporate responsibility Ted Monk said in an email. This has lead to an avoidance of over one million pounds of pre-consumer food waste measured in 50 of Sodexo’s university locations.
JoAnne Berkenkamp, senior advocate for the Food and Agriculture Program within Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), gave a similar outlook: “Waste tracking and analytics can lead to substantial reductions in food cost…When food service operators empower that knowledge, it enables them to get on top of the problem and figure out how to manage it.”
Although, large food corporations are not the only ones to blame for the amount of food being wasted. The average American family throws away about $2,000 worth a food a year, according to the NRDC.
This is because, as Berkenkamp pointed out, “roughly 55 percent of groceries purchased in the United States are ‘impulse buys’ that can contribute to people purchasing things they can’t properly use.”
Along with this, there are some very common myths about date labeling. Aside from baby food, date labels on food packages are not federally regulated and almost universally, date labels are used to indicate the freshness of a food, not when it becomes unsafe to consume.
In December, the FSIS revised guidance for manufacturers to use one universal “Best if Used By” date label on products to ensure consumers that the product can still be used after said date.