During a two-part session at the Future of Food at SXSW, anti-food waste advocates promoted solutions to address food loss and food waste. The conversation took place as part of the Future of Food @ SXSW co-hosted by The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, Little Herds, The Cook’s Nook, and Food Tank.
“There is always surplus food,” Denise Osterhues, Senior Director of Sustainability & Social Impact for The Kroger Co. says. “The idea is how do we move as much surplus as possible?”
According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 2.5 billion tonnes of food goes uneaten around the world each year. And if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the United States.
The panelists argue that it will take everyone to reduce food loss and waste. “Whether you produce food or not, food waste is still your problem that you have to deal with,” Niyeti Shah, Social Impact Program Manager for WW International says.
Emily Ma, Head of Food for Good at Google says that innovation will be a necessary part of the solution. this may entail new technology, Ma continues, but innovation can also take the form of strategic narrative shifts or policy interventions.
At Google, for example, the company successfully cut waste generated by employees simply by reducing the size of plates in cafeterias. This changed helped individuals avoid taking more food than they needed.
Yoni Medhin, Co-founder of Grain4Grain, argues that reframing the problem for business leaders can be another effective strategy. These stakeholders may not respond to the term food waste, Medhin says. “When we pitch customers…we just tell them ‘we’re going to help you maximize your food asset.'”
Shah also promotes the potential of food policy. The Food Donation Improvement Act of 2021, for example, is intended to provide liability protections for businesses with surplus food to donate.
While businesses and policymakers have important role to play, Katy Franklin, Operations Director at ReFED reminds everyone that individual consumers must be deliberate about reducing food waste as well.
“Food waste happens everywhere along the supply chain, but a lot of that takes place in our homes,” Franklin says. She suggests that eaters hold onto receipts after each shopping trip and keep track of any foods they didn’t use so they make better choices next time.
“We need everybody,” Osterhues says. “We all need to do our part to reduce food waste.”
Watch the full conversations here: