Chef's Blog

October 19, 2015

Bridging the Gap Between Hunger and Waste

from Chef Christopher Britton

I read recently that Americans waste 31-40% of the annual post-harvest food supply. As of 2010, Share our Strength reports that 16.2 million children (1 in 5 households) lack the means to get nutritious meals on a regular basis. In other words, we waste more food and have a greater hunger problem than most developed countries. How do we bridge the gap between food waste and hunger to turn one problem into a benefit for the other? Here are a few suggestions for chefs and operators to consider:

  1. Do your bottom line and your customer’s waistline a favor and reduce portion sizes. Rare is the restaurant chain that follows the portion sizes recommended by USDA guidelines. Resist the urge to serve larger portions and instead focus on trendier concepts, higher quality ingredients, and shareable portions to create value in the marketplace.

  2. Partner with an area food bank to donate imperfect, dated, or out-of-spec food. Each food assistance program has their own guidelines of what they can accept but generally any food not previously served to a consumer, maintained at proper holding temperatures, and donated by a licensed foodservice operator is acceptable. Plus you reap the benefits of reduced waste removal costs, taxable deductions, and free marketing through community goodwill.

  3. Get creative with useable trim. Puree trimmings or imperfect fruits and vegetables for use in sauces, baked goods and fillings. Plus, your customers get the benefit of added fiber in their diet.

  4. Use smaller plates on buffet service. Data shows a significant decrease in food cost and wasted product when reducing the plate size by just 2”.

  5. Ditch the garbage cans. By making garbage cans scarce in the kitchen, cooks are forced to think twice before discarding useable trim. I have a customer who incentivizes his staff to discard only one garbage can full of waste per day. Anything more and there goes dessert at employee mealtime.

  6. Inspect “empty” plates. In my operations, I hung around the dish room to see what was being discarded. Did they even eat the garnish on the steak? Is the bread basket portion too big? Not only did I get a sense of what the customer liked and didn’t like, but I was able to control my portion sizes and valuable labor hours by observing my diner’s preferences.
    Check out the attached article for more information.

Not only are these suggestions good for your bottom line, but they are good for the residents of your community.

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