Restaurants produce about 44 billion tons of food waste per year, says environmental journalist and author Bryan Walsh. Walsh is moderating the first panel at the 2018 NYC Food Tank Summit, focusing on what the restaurant and corporate food industries are doing to battle food waste.
There is a consensus between the panelists that education is key. “We need to educate the kitchen staff to be creative and be able to use waste to create new dishes,” says Dadisi Olutosin, Co-Founder and Chief Culinary Officer of Plated Food Groupe.
And education of the consumer is also important—portion sizes have gotten too large, leading to large amounts of waste.
Brad Nelson, Vice President and Global Operations Discipline Leader at Marriott International, frames the topic differently: “We have a food recovery problem, not a food waste problem.” He mentions the Marriott challenge to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2025, and his strategy to train staff in the habit of treating leftover buffet food the same way it has handled pre-service: by refrigerating it right away so it can stay suitable for donation.
Pacific Foods President Joe Folds builds on this by describing his company’s partnership with the local Oregon Food Bank, where they help turn the food bank’s excess of produce donations into healthy soups that get donated back to the food bank for distribution.
On the restaurant level, Marco Canora, Chef and Founder of Brodo, believes, “as chefs, our responsibility is to use everything, to create a sustainable system within our restaurants.” He stresses the importance of being familiar with waste prevention techniques such as dehydrating and fermenting foods.
Another solution is to focus on redirecting the waste stream. Dickie Brennan, Owner and Managing Partner of Dickie Brennan & Company, discussed his participation in a program to recycle oyster shells from his restaurants back into the local ecosystem, serving to prevent coastal erosion and improve oyster habitat.
“Everyone needs to spend more money on food. The more value we place on food, the more inclined we may be to not throw it away,” Canora says.
Watch the full NYC Summit panel on Restaurants and Companies Fighting Food Waste, above.