Food waste in a landfill
The F.W.R.A. released a report highlighting several efforts companies are employing to reduce food waste.

WASHINGTON — The Food Waste Reduction Alliance (F.W.R.A.) has issued its second annual guide of food waste reduction best practices retailers, food service operators and food manufacturers may use to keep food waste at its source. The report highlights several efforts companies are employing to accomplish the group’s goals of reducing food waste, improving the environment and addressing hunger in America.

Christy Cook, director of sustainability performance and field support, Sodexo
Christy Cook, director of sustainability performance and field support, Sodexo

“The real value this project offers is the perspective of industry — compiled by companies for companies,” said Christy Cook, director of sustainability performance and field support, Sodexo, which has a U.S. office in Gaithersburg, Md. “It shares industry successes and suggestions around how to overcome potential food donation obstacles such as liability issues, transportation constraints and insufficient storage and refrigeration at food banks. It also highlights ways to recycle food waste such as recovering energy from food waste materials and redirection of organic materials.”

The F.W.R.A., which includes the Food Marketing Institute, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association, among its founding members, has expanded its primary objectives. Initially, the group was focused on reducing the amount of food waste generated and increasing the amount of food reaching those in need. But as the effort has progressed a third objective was added to recycle unavoidable food waste and divert it from landfills.

To divert waste from landfills, the F.W.R.A. recommends companies conduct a waste characterization assessment to determine how much waste is being generated and to better understand how it may be disposed. While such an effort may sound complicated, getting started may be as simple as sorting through a plant’s trash at the end of the day and sorting it to determine the type of materials in the waste stream and how much is generated.

The most recent F.W.R.A. study included a survey of participating companies and found that retailers and food manufacturers who responded had donated more than 290 million lbs of food to various hunger programs, but disposed of an estimated 1.2 billion lbs. Restaurant operators donated more than 29 million lbs, but experienced barriers to increasing donations.

Barriers encountered included transportation constraints, liability concerns, insufficient storage at food banks, regulatory issues and insufficient storage at the plant generating the donations. Companies that indicated liability as a concern noted there were challenges with maintaining the proper chain of custody for donated food.

To address the issue of liability, the report makes a variety of recommendations, including partnering with such organizations as Feeding America and the Food Donation Connection, but added it may also simply require initiative and ingenuity by the donating companies.

For example, the Campbell Soup Co., in conjunction with the Food Bank of South (New) Jersey, Eastern ProPak Farmers’ Cooperative and Summit City Farms, to create Just Peachy Salsa. In 2012, peaches that could not be sold in grocery stores were sold at a discount by Eastern ProPak and brought to Campbell. The company obtained additional ingredients through supplier donations and developed and began manufacturing Just Peachy in their pilot plant in Camden, N.J. The Food Bank of South Jersey found retailers to sell the salsa and 100% of the proceeds went back to the food bank.

ConAgra Foods has changed the way it transitions from one pudding flavor to another in a manufacturing plant by creating blended flavors rather than waste product while flushing the manufacturing line from one flavor to another. The mixed-flavor pudding is then donated, reducing manufacturing loss and getting food to those in need.

If food cannot be donated for human consumption, the report recommends considering such other options as donating it for use as animal feed or using it to recover energy from waste materials. The last line of defense, according to the report, is to redirect organic materials for composting or other soil treatments like direct land application.

“Approximately 80 billion lbs of food waste is discarded in U.S. landfills each year and the issue is now getting national attention following the announcement of U.S.D.A. and E.P.A.’s first-ever national food waste reduction goals in September,” said Patti Olenick, sustainability manager for Weis Markets, Inc. “In order to achieve a 50% reduction by 2030, corporations everywhere will be looking to do their part. This guide should be the first step they take.”

To view the complete guide, click here.