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National Restaurant Association - Taking a bite out of food waste

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Taking a bite out of food waste

Finding ways to educate the food industry and its customers on food waste in America was the order of the day at an Oct. 6 meeting in Washington, D.C.

The meeting, hosted by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, brought together representatives from food companies, sustainability groups, and government agencies to talk about the problem of food waste and how to work together to solve it.

The FWRA is a coalition of the National Restaurant Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, formed in 2011 to reduce commercial food waste.

“Through our Conserve program, the NRA is trying to raise awareness of this issue,” said Laura Abshire, the NRA’s director of sustainability policy. “We’re working hard to show restaurateurs they can make a difference by reducing, reusing and recycling the food waste they create. By educating our industry and training them with best practices they can use every day, we’re confident we’ll be able to cut the amount of food waste we create and divert it from landfills to other, better uses.”

Attendees discussed initiatives they’re working on, what has worked best for their companies or organizations, what hasn’t, and what they need help with.

A number of speakers addressed the challenges they’ve faced around food waste and what they’ve been doing to overcome them. The panelists discussed reduction at the source, how to get more participation in food donation programs, and how to attract the interest of consumers.

Elise Golan of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Ron Vance of the Environmental Protection Agency talked about the federal government’s goal of reducing food waste 50 percent by the year 2030.

The two agreed the goal is an ambitious one, but it’s one that the government is committed to achieving with the help of the public and stakeholders across all channels.

Christy Cook of contract foodservice provider Sodexo USA, Andrew Shakman of food waste prevention company LeanPath Inc., and Patrick Serfass of the American BioGas Council talked about the challenges around food waste and the changes they’re starting to see. All agreed that more people are beginning to support the premise of reduction, but that education is key to full acceptance.

Cam Pascual, founder of the Food Recovery Network, Jim Larson, program development director for the Food Donation Connection, and Liz Baldridge, product sourcing manager for Feeding America, also spoke about raising awareness of food recovery efforts, including donation.

The biggest challenge to reducing food waste is changing behavior, Pascual said. She noted that it has to be done in two ways: through awareness and implementation.

Visit Conserve for more information on the industry’s food waste reduction efforts.

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