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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reduce First, Donate Second and Compost Third

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The Zero Waste Zones promote the big three "R's": Reduce, ReUse | RePurpose and Recycle. As a general rule, ZWZ Participants shift purchasing practices once a focus develops on wasted items sent to the landfill or recycling and REDUCE their consumption, including waste.

With kitchen food waste, the reduction catalyst is often an observant chef who retrains staff to more effectively prep food items. A simple yet common example is cutting the lettuce closer to the core to utilize the entire head, leaving only bitter or inedible parts for compost collection.

When he reviewed their food waste stats provided by Greenco Environmental, the permitted composting facility serving the Atlanta market, Steve Simon - Fifth Group Restaurants partner & ZWZ Participant- found  his lowest grossing restaurant had the  highest food waste volume.  With superior food quality at the restaurant, Steve realized portions were larger than their customers' appetite.  By focusing on what and how much is going to recycling or landfill, foodservice operators modify practices to improve their bottom line.

In his ground-breaking book, American Wasteland - How America Throws Away Nearly Half of It's Food (and what we can do about it), Jonathan Bloom opened our nation's eyes to the staggering amount of food going to landfills, while millions go to bed hungry.  With open eyes it is time to take action to stop the waste at every level of production and consumption from the farm, to distribution, retail - restaurants | foodservice, grocery stores and markets, and in our homes.

The ZWZ Criteria sets the use hierarchy of excess commercial food generated: 1> donate unsalable food that meets the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act and 2> separate remaining food waste for composting collection.  

Perry Kranias of HMSHost - Tampa
with food ready for donation
Last week the Tampa Bay Times article, Leftovers from Tampa International Airport serve new purposes, honors HMSHost - the Tampa International Airport concessionaire & ZWZ Participant - for creating a program that donates delicious food no longer meeting their high standards to a local children's program during the week.  On the weekend the food is donated to area homeless folks.  For many of the children the HMSHost late afternoon meals serve as a dinner they were destined to miss.

Since September, 2010  HMSHost - Tampa Airport recovered the equivalent of 167,000 meals and spurred similar programs in 13 other airports.  HMSHost vendors typically produce 10 to 15 percent more foods than they expect to sell. Travelers appreciate fresh prepackaged foods, which is why HMSHost "grab and go meals" are never older than 24 hours. Thanks to the Tampa HMSHost folks, the overage produced via a quality and abundant selection commitment serve as delicious, nutritious meals for those less fortunate at an increasing number of airports.

At the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - a ZWZ Participant and Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilot, HMSHost delivers it's excess donatable food to the airport's USO operations for soldiers to enjoy. A donation program to local programs for children and those less fortunate is in the exploratory phase.  At the busiest airport in the world for 14 consecutive years, there are additional challenges at play to ensure secure travel.

Dana Gunders
In her recent blog post, A Look at the $175 in your compost,  Dana Gunders with the National Resources Defense Council gives an excellent recap of the astounding truth inherent within the wasted food in our nation.  With a predominant consumer focus, the blog post is a must read for those committed to walking the talk in their personal lives.  

In December, 2011 the NRDC issued a concise, well-written two-page document, Your scraps add up, reducing food waste can save money and resources. that details the facts in easy to understand graphs, lists simple behavioral changes that make a big difference, and includes ample live links to resources for those who choose to dig deeper.   

uneaten, served food going to compost
When they address world hunger, our global leaders must address the food waste inherent within the current system before an effective solution is created.  Eliminating the waste is the first priority and diverting edible, wasted food to hungry bellies is foundational to system development.  An entirely revamped agricultural system, urban & rural, will produce food where the animals, plants and soil are treated with immense integrity and the nutritious food produced is equally available to all population sectors.  Such a system seems utopian in current energy yet is our future reality.

ZWZ plays a vital role in the food system evolution.  The participant base consists of the pioneers ready, willing and enthusiastic to create industry practices seeped with integrity and respect for our natural resources, including plants, animals, soil and humanity.

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