Gastronomy Industry #3

Our consumption-oriented society produces a lot of waste, as was already shown in previous posts. Even though there are still a lot of measures to be undertaken, there are many good initiatives that already exist, which contribute to the reduction of food waste. In this post I would like to mention some general information about food recovery, organizations that are involved in this issue and an example of an existing law regulating food waste in gastronomy industry. In the end I will explain what are green restaurants.

Food recovery, which is sometimes also called food rescue, is basically a process of retrieving edible food that otherwise would be thrown away and giving it to people that actually need it. How does it actually work? Grocery stores, food vendors and of course restaurants donate the “rotten for them” food to organizations that afterwards distribute it. Even if there are many of, so called, food banks, food pantries or soup kitchens organizations, the problem of food waste is still not solved. I have already mentioned it in my previous posts. It is actually people ignorance that is the main problem. Normally people throw food because they do not need it anymore. They don’t think that somebody else might need it. However it is becoming a more serious problem with restaurants, which operate with much bigger amounts of food. But even restaurant owners who see all the waste they produce do not think about the possibility of using it for some good purposes. What I want to highlight is that food rescue organizations should encourage restaurants to donate their waste. This is the only way to make a change. The most frustrating issue is that even though there are many initiatives promoting these behaviors, we can still see landfills full of food.

As I have already mentioned, there are a lot of organizations dealing with food waste and there are as many different structures as many organizations. I am going to present you two organizations that I consider to be from two opposite poles. Feeding America (1) is a big organization uniting other organizations and food banks. People can donate food or money via Internet (of course food has to be sent by mail or delivered personally due to a lack of technology). Seeking information about Feeding America I was thinking, why do we need a “giant” national organization, while all the food banks are local? Unfortunately every little issue, measure or step in our world, no matter the purpose, has to be regulated and controlled from the top. If not, it would give rise to many lawsuits, create conflicts and “finger pointing” at others.

In England there is an organization called “Love Food, Hate Waste” (2). They believe that most of the food waste is caused by our strong love to high consumption. Many campaigns are being organized to teach people how to cook less and in a more efficient way or how to use food waste to prepare a fresh delicious meal by giving recipes. Basically this organization is educating people, how to consume less, eat fresh food i.e. something that for our grandparents was a normal way of life. I really like this kind of initiatives because it shows people how to live and I strongly believe that only by showing through example can we make a change.

Sometimes restaurant chains are looking for excuses not to donate food. They defend themselves by saying that someone may get food poisoning or other disease and then sue them. In America in 1996 a law called The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was issued to legally protect companies, restaurants or grocery stores. Everything seems perfect, doesn’t it? But again, there was a problem of information diffusion. Restaurants don’t know about it, so they still keep their food waste locked in garbage bins. Maybe the problem is that the law is imposing food donations, but on the other hand such a solution could be seen as limiting liberties. In Europe such laws still do not exist.

An American NGO Green Restaurant Association (GRA) (3) is giving the Green Restaurant title since 1990. There are seven categories by which the restaurants are being judged:

1. Water efficiency
2. Waste reduction and recycling
3. Sustainable furnishing and building materials
4. Sustainable food
5. Energy
6. Disposables
7. Chemical and pollution reduction

Each day more and more people are interested in eating in such places and GRA is a database for customers. It is a connection between restaurant clients and the restaurant itself. In my opinion such initiatives are very important, because they not only give prestige to a certain restaurant but also influence customers and employees. A Green restaurant owner, Jim Solomon from the Fireplace Restaurant, said: “I realized about a 45% return on my investment in one year and cut approximately $1200 off my annual operating costs. Not only am I pleased with the financial results of my decision, I also know that my association with GRA has inspired employee morale.” Even though he sounds like a real businessman that does not care about nothing else than his business, it seems like the GRA goal was achieved. It encouraged people to “go green” and to contribute to making a change with the gastronomy industry’s food waste problem.

Those were some of the measures that are being undertaken to reduce food waste. All of them are good initiatives, but more effort is needed. In my opinion we should put more weight on word of mouth. It is still the best solution know to men for a good marketing strategy. By showing example and telling people about it we may spread the information wide enough. The next entry in this series will be dedicated to developing possible solutions to food waste reduction in gastronomy industry.

References:

  1. Feeding America – http://feedingamerica.org/how-we-fight-hunger/mission-and-values.aspx
  2. Love Food, Hate Waste – http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/about_food_waste
  3. Green Restaurant Association – http://www.dinegreen.com/restaurants
posted by Piotr Wielezynski

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