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Monday, March 17, 2014

EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Region IV launches FRC in hospitality sector

In 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) as a response to the incredible volume of food waste and wasted food destined for landfills. For EPA Region IV, the FRC launches within the hospitality sector in early 2014.

Food waste, the stupendous quantity and its landfill destination, is a hot media topic. In 2010 Jonathan Bloom hit a trigger point with his groundbreaking book, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and what we can do about it), and opened the gateways to exposing the tremendous waste inherent in the nation's food production and consumption.

Months later Dana Gunders with the National Resource Defense Council issued a concise, well-written two-page document,Your scraps add up, reducing food waste can save money and resourcesthat details facts in easy to understand graphs, lists simple behavioral changes, and includes ample live links to resources for those who choose to dig deeper. The document inspired the ZWA Blog's most popular article, Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third.

In August 2012 the NRDC released an Issue Paper, Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill, researched and written by Dana. The paper serves as an organized, easy to access and quotable document for the plethora of wasted food stories in national media outlets.

Beginning with the 2009 Zero Waste Zones launch, Atlanta foodservice operators took a leadership role in innovative food waste reduction | elimination programs. ZWZ Participants pledged to donate wasted food and collect food waste for composting. At the time, the Atlanta program was a national forerunner in the commercial food waste collection for compost.

During the same time frame, Atlanta Pioneers created grass root systems for wasted food - edible food meeting the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act criteria - collection for direct donation to local shelters. Wasted food may require cooking or other preparation at the shelter, often a challenge preventing donation. 

A volunteer with Second Helpings, Myron Smith used his business acumen to develop a donation program for delicious, nutritious food from farmers markets, grocery stores, festivals and foodservice operators previously landfill bound. In team spirit, Myron works in collaboration with the Atlanta Community Food Bank to ensure their complementary services maximize community benefit.

Myron & Elizabeth during her
Atlanta vsit
In her November 2012 article, Spoil Alert published by Martha Stewart's Whole Living, renown nature | science writer Elizabeth Royte gives Atlanta's wasted food crusaders a national spotlight. The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta's Focus on Food Waste Reduction, is an overview of Elizabeth's whirlwind Atlanta visit for interviews. For a recap of the article along with interesting anecdotes from the local wasted food warriors, see the ZWA Blog article, Atlanta's Wasted Food Heroes in National Spotlight.

On January 15, 2013 CBS SmartPlanet published For business, food waste a ripe opportunity for savings by Kevin Gray that approaches food waste from the business perspective. Again, Atlanta is recognized for its leadership role with innovative approaches to reducing food waste. The ZWA Blog article, Food Waste, the business perspective, announces the CBS SmartPlanet article. Additionally, the blog article establishes the food waste scenario is more than an environmental concern - it threatens our nation's economic security.

Image of the Food Recovery HierarchyWith Atlanta's history of food waste reduction, donation and recycling, the EPA Region IV FRC launch within the hospitality sector is synergistic with well-established systems. Modeled after the EPA's Food Recovery Hierarchy, the FRC is a voluntary program. Participants pledge to provide a food waste baseline along with annual goals to prevent food waste, donate wasted food and | or recycle food waste in a state-permitted non-landfill destination. 

In addition, the FRC serves as a food waste tracking tool with report compilation modules. Information entered into the EPA system is proprietary in nature; the EPA only shares metrics in the aggregate.

For Atlanta's heroes, the FRC is a recognition program for a job well done as well as an opportunity to share their experiences with fellow operators.

With strong connections to foodservice industry leaders who relish the pioneer role, Elemental Impact works closely with the EPA on the Southeast FRC launch, mainly in Atlanta, Tampa and Charlotte. Ei's role is introductory in nature. Kim Charick of the EPA works directly with potential participants on program enrollment.

Kim meeting with the GWCC folks
For foodservice operators new to food recovery practices, the EPA provides a series of educational tools. The industry pioneers will share their stories via case studies along with presenting in webinars.

The Ei FB EPA Food Recovery Challenge album tracks the EPA Region IV FRC successes and milestones. 

Over a three-week period, Ei orchestrated introductory meetings | calls with Chick-fil-A, HMSHost, Affairs to Remember, Ted's Montana Grill, Georgia World Congress Center, Georgia Dome, Sysco, HobNob, Federal Reserve, Le Cordon Bleu and the American Culinary Federation, Atlanta Chefs Association. Enthusiasm is strong and Kim is in the follow-up process. Many completed the first stage within the program enrollment process.

A goal is to announce a strong participation platform at the May 7 & 8 2014 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Conference hosted in Atlanta. Stay tuned for future articles documenting the EPA Food Recovery Challenge success!

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