In 2019, 35% of all food produced in the United States went unsold or uneaten — 80.6 million tons worth, worth a staggering $408 billion, according to the leading food waste nonprofit ReFED. As bad as that sounds, it actually represents progress, said ReFED Executive Director and renowned food-waste expert Dana Gunders, during a joint webinar in late February with Bon Appétit Management Company Waste Programs Manager Claire Cummings Bogle and Chief Strategy and Brand Officer Maisie Ganzler. That percentage has leveled off in recent years, and in fact, per capita “surplus food” — as ReFED calls unsold, unused, or uneaten food — has actually declined slightly.
“Bon Appétit is at the forefront of what’s working in fighting food waste. You’re their clients, use their programs! They can help you achieve your company’s goals.”
— Dana Gunders, ReFED executive director
However, the pandemic’s effect on food waste has yet to be fully analyzed, and even those pre-pandemic numbers are miles away from being on track for the United States’ goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. Both ReFED and Bon Appétit have committed to that goal. That’s why Dana and Claire were tag-teaming this special webinar for dozens of Bon Appétit corporate and higher-education clients who are interested in fighting food waste. Food waste is a major contributor of the greenhouse gases causing climate change, represents untold amounts of wasted water and energy, and feels increasingly unethical in a country in which more than 35 million people, including nearly 11 million children, were already food insecure even before the COVID-19 crisis began.
Dana shared a live demo of ReFED’s brand-new Insights Engine, a data geek’s dream come true. The Insights Engine allows you to dive deep into U.S. surplus food, viewing the problem from multiple dynamic angles: industries, geography, causes, food types, monetary value, and more. For this audience, Dana zeroed in on food service, which includes not only university dining and corporate cafés such as those Bon Appétit operates, but also full-service restaurants.
ReFED’s Insights Engine doesn’t just present the whole bleak picture. It also integrates an extensive, equally dynamic Solutions Database, and Dana took the attendees through some of the solutions available to the food service industry, showing which have the greatest impact in tonnage and dollar value.
That was Claire’s cue to present Bon Appétit’s many waste-fighting tools and programs that any of our clients can utilize. She gave a fast-paced overview of:
- Waste Not 2.0, our own cloud-based, chef-centric kitchen waste tracking program
- Toward Cleaner Plates: A Study of Plate Waste in Food Service — and the surprising takeaways we learned from it
- The Imperfectly Delicious Produce program
- Food recovery tools and guides, food insecurity whitepaper, and a guide to opening a food pantry guide on college campuses
- Toward Zero Waste, a fully branded catering concept designed to help catering teams strive for zero waste
- A pandemic-updated eco-takeout guide with case studies from our cafés and a decision tree to help our teams identify which disposable serviceware is the right fit for their operation
Claire closed with mentioning that Bon Appétit’s waste team had begun a study in early 2020 to better understand why guests use disposable to-go containers when dining inside a café (instead of the reusables plates and utensils offered). “We’re constantly trying to figure out what drives guest behavior so we can nudge our business and those we serve in a less wasteful direction,” she explained.
Before signing off, Dana had one major piece of advice for the attendees: “Bon Appétit is at the forefront of what’s working in fighting food waste. You’re their clients, use their programs! They can help you achieve your company’s goals.”
Note: Bon Appétit clients who are interested in watching the webinar recording or seeing some of the tools listed above should contact Claire at [email protected].