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National Restaurant Association - NRA, others talk strategy at Food Waste Reduction Alliance meeting

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NRA, others talk strategy at Food Waste Reduction Alliance meeting

Reducing the amount of food waste that restaurateurs, retailers and manufacturers produce was the main topic of conversation at a meeting of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance in Seattle earlier this month.

The meeting, held Aug. 13, was conducted by the National Restaurant Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, the three charter members of the FWRA. The meeting, one of three during the year, focused on ways to reduce the amount of food waste that goes to landfills and increase the amount of food that is donated to food banks and other like-minded charitable organizations, said Laura Abshire, the NRA’s director of sustainability and the Association's FWRA representative.

“All of our industries are committed to solving the problem of commercial food waste,” she said, “but it’s going to take some time before we can achieve that goal. In 2010 alone, the United States generated 60 million tons of food waste and 40 million tons of it went to landfill. And that’s the reason we’ve come together: to do our part to help solve the problem.”

Abshire said the group talked about ways of educating the FWRA’s respective industry members on food waste reduction as well as collecting more data and information on how much of it actually goes to landfill and how much is donated or recycled.

“Our eventual goal is for restaurants and other foodservice companies to be able to donate more food and reduce the amount of waste they produce that ends up in the landfill,” she said. “We can compost waste, recycle used cooking oil into biodiesel, use technologies that turn waste into energy and, of course, donate more of our food to charity. But it’s important to know how much food is wasted in the first place.”

Abshire said some companies already know how to measure food waste and have implemented methods into their daily operations on how to track it, but the majority of businesses still need some help.

She noted there are lots of ways to conduct the measurements, but many restaurateurs either do it manually, with pen and paper, or by investing in technology – electronic programs that do the calculations for you.

The FWRA will release a toolkit of best practices offering tips on how to reduce food waste. The toolkit will be released in October, Abshire said. It also will feature links to case studies of companies that have already implemented successful food waste reduction programs at their businesses.

In addition, the organization will also complete the third iteration of a survey it’s been conducting during the last three years that is looking into how much food waste the industries actually produce and where it goes. The third leg of the study, which will include the restaurant industry, will be fielded in the fall and the results will be released in 2014, Abshire said.

Abshire added that, perhaps, the best part of the meeting was the group’s ability to come together to work on food waste reduction.

“This group is helping to unite all of our industries,” she said. “We all want to make a difference. We know that a large portion of food waste is created residentially by consumers, but we in the commercial space want to do our part. We can help by sharing best practices and educating businesses.”

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