When cleaning the table from a meal or clearing out the fridge, have you ever stopped to think, “Wow, we just let a lot food go to waste, but I know if I save it as ‘leftovers’, it will just end up in the trash.” We all have, perhaps more often than we’d like.
Serendipity has long been on the forefront of green practices in our eco-friendly kitchen, so, we teamed up with the Environmental Protection Agency and their new Food Recovery Challenge Program. The program asks participants to reduce as much of their food waste as possible all while saving money, helping communities, and protecting the environment. Food waste has become more of an issue lately and is gaining major press. A recent Food and Wine article gave these startling stats: an estimated 40% of United States food supplies goes to waste. The EPA also found that, in 2012, Americans threw out around 35 million tons of food, three times as much as we did in the 1960’s! Being mindful of our Certifiably Green catering status and setting the standard in green habits, it was only natural to team up with the EPA and the relatively new and progressive Food Recovery Challenge Program.
To delve deeper into this next major green issue, that is relevant to both businesses and individuals, we spoke with Virginia Till, recycling specialist for the EPA to get to the bottom of the food waste barrel and give us valuable information on the Food Recovery Challenge.
Lets start with what everyone needs to know– What is the Food Recovery Challenge?
The EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) is a voluntary program that can help your organization save money and resources by reducing food waste through food waste prevention, food donation and food scraps recycling (like composting and/or anaerobic digestion).
The FRC has a variety of current participants from both the public and private sectors including grocers, food service, universities and stadiums. These participants are making a difference in their communities by leading efforts to feed hungry people and help the environment.
So how does it all work?
Any business or organization can participate in the Food Recovery Challenge by becoming an endorser or participant. Challenge participants will reduce food waste through prevention, donation and recycling.
Endorsers agree to “get the word out” about the program and encourage others to join. Participants enter baseline information about what they are already doing in the areas of food waste reduction, food donation, or composting (it’s OK if nothing has been done in the past), and set annual goals.
With more of us being more eco-conscious these days, why do you suppose Americans are still so quick to waste food?
Personally, I think the main contributing factors relate to age, how busy people are, and how much disposable income they have (research supports this). On average, a family of four loses about $1600 per year on wasted food and food waste.
The US is gaining momentum on the topic of food waste, food insecurity, and food waste reduction, but we are lagging behind other westernized countries such as those in Europe and Australia in terms of food waste research. Much of the research is based on consumers self-reporting their habits, so more research must be completed in order to get a better picture of US food waste and behaviors. The question of which wastes food – or more precisely, who thinks they waste food – is one on which there has been little research.
What we do know, based on research in the US and other places, food waste varies by age, lifestyle, and geographic area. In general, observed differences in amounts wasted can be attributed to the following socio-demographic factors such as age, age of children, gender, income, and size of household.
Do you feel that that we are becoming more aware of food waste?
I can only speak from my personal knowledge as a resident in the Denver Metro area, but I feel we are becoming more aware. With campaigns such as Slow Food, Produce for Pantries, and Buy Local, conversations around food issues, and food waste in particular, seem to pop up more often. In addition, behavior-changing campaigns that incorporate community-based social marketing are more prevalent nationwide. There is currently an EPA pilot program applying these strategies towards helping communities reduce household food waste called Food: Too Good To Waste.
The Food Recovery Challenge is a brilliant program to get involved with! Serendipity’s is thrilled to be a part if it. How does working with a company like us help the challenge?
Through Serendipity’s participation, we, as the EPA (and a nation), can get a more complete and accurate picture of what organizations are already doing in the area of food waste reduction, food donation, and composting (to name a few). In addition, because food waste is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas production in local landfills, businesses and organizations can make a clear difference in the local environment by setting annual goals for improvement. Also of benefit to the community is the potential for food donation for the food insecure and more efficient use of environmental (and financial) resources. By wasting less food, we waste less money, water and fuel used to make (or buy) that food.
However, one of the most exciting and beneficial things I see for this program is that of building capacity and creating networks. I’ve been so impressed by some of our members that connect with each other to improve the local community. For example, Certifiably Green Denver, an endorser, has been great about spreading the word about the program. As a result, DIA and Snooze are signing up for the program (to name a few). On the other end, the St. Julien Hotel and Spa in Boulder (a participant) is donating extra food through an Endorser – Boulder Food Rescue – and these are just a few of the partnerships I could name! These networks and opportunities are the most motivating element of the program for me, personally. Chatting with excited organizations such as yours, and others, makes me feel like my daily work is worthwhile. Thank you!