Monthly Archives: January 2013

Why do we waste food?

Flashfood’s mobile application seeks to reduce food waste by taking prepared meals that would otherwise end up in a landfill, and donating them to hungry individuals.

Food waste is now the number one component of landfills in the US, and 15% of this waste comes from restaurants. At first glance, this statistic might seem somewhat overestimated. Since restaurants are businesses, wouldn’t owners want to do everything they can to reduce waste and therefore increase their bottom line? As it turns out, there isn’t a simple answer to that question (surprise!).

This recent NPR report explains that oftentimes restaurants don’t even know how much food is actually being wasted. One chef interviewed by the NPR reporter said, “I’ve never taken the time to weigh or measure how much we do throw away,” while another stated, “It’s just another thing we’re used to as a restaurant professional … the amount of garbage that’s thrown out on a nightly basis…It can be a little staggering, I guess, but that’s just what happens.”

The verb “waste”, as defined by the Oxfored English Dictionary:

“To consume, expend, bestow (money, property) uselessly, with needless lavishness or without adequate return; to make prodigal or improvident use of; to squander.”

While some waste is necessary to prepare a wholesome and attractive dish, much of what ends up in kitchen dumpsters is perfectly edible. Restaurants must recognize that they are truly squandering resources (their own and that of society as a whole). Some simple  changes, including smarter procurement, tracking, and also donating food can help limit this largely unnecessary, but industry-wide behavior while providing savings for restaurants (yes, in many cases food donations are tax deductable!).

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Arizona State University Knight Foundation mobile app event

Last Thursday we had the privilege of participating in the Arizona State University Knight Foundation Mobile App event at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix. The goal of the event was to celebrate the massive impact smartphones have had on the way society communicates and shares information. The highlight of the event was a showcase of ASU student-developed mobile applications.  We had a lot of fun demonstrating the FlashFood Mobile Applilcation for the event’s attendees and learning about several awesome projects that other ASU students are working on.

FlashFood Mobile Application

Katelyn in action demonstrating the FlashFood app!

Another cool ASU student-owned software company, Mercury Innovative, demonstrates their "Text In Motion" application, an interactive children's book for active learning.

Another cool ASU student-owned software company, Mercury Innovative, demonstrates their “Text In Motion” application, an interactive children’s book designed to facilitate active learning. This isn’t your dad’s picture book! Check it out on the Windows 8 App Store.

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Meet shayla!

Shayla Hubbard, Volunteer Management Intern

Shayla Hubbard, Volunteer Management Intern

Hello everyone! I am Shayla Hubbard, FlashFood’s new Volunteer Management Intern. I am currently a sophomore majoring in Biology and Society with a minor in Nonprofit Administration at ASU. What am I going to do with such a focused degree? Honest answer, I haven’t quite decided yet. I do know, however, that I love biology and I find it interesting how much of our world is impacted by it. Currently I am exploring the options of working in healthcare administration, but have found myself falling in love with nonprofit organizations more and more each day! Nonetheless I have two years to figure it all out and for now when I am not at school or working I spend my time reading, shopping, or stimulating the economy as I like to call it, and volunteering. Thanks for reading!

Environmental Protection Agency “Food Recovery Challenge”

In the past couple of weeks, we have seen dozens of food service businesses and retailers join the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Food Recovery Challenge”. The objective of this EPA initiative is to encourage food businesses to find more sustainable ways to treat their extra food rather than throwing it in the trash. According to the EPA, in 2010 35 million tons of food went uneaten, and 97 percent of this amount went to rot in our landfills. Discarded food is the highest waste category by volume in American landfills, filling 21% of total landfill space. Businesses around the United States are increasingly making better decisions about how to handle their extra food, thanks in part to this EPA initiative. While this is a positive trend overall, we’ve noticed that many businesses are focusing mostly, or solely, on composting, rather than donating extra food to local food pantries or charities.

On the EPA’s “Food Recovery Challenge” webpage, the following “Food Recovery Hierarchy” is featured:

FoodRpng_700pxw

While composting is a waste-reduction strategy, it is second last on the Food Recovery Hierarchy, while feeding people is the second best food recovery scenario.

We acknowledge that a great deal of extra food is not suitable for donations, and we certainly do not want to criticize businesses for composting or utilizing any other of the strategies on this hierarchy. Rather, we want to encourage businesses to take their positive change to the next level and explore the option of donating their surplus food. There are a lot of great organizations across America that specialize in recovering perishable food.

Food Donation Connection is an international organization working with over 13,000 restaurants in the USA and Canada. Contact them to learn how you can get involved!

If your business is located in the Phoenix Metro Area, you can also contact FlashFood to join our first network of food donors, or just to ask us questions about food recovery. We look forward to hearing from you!

Keep up the good work everyone!

TEN WAYS TO FIGHT HUNGER (seven through ten)

For Arizona State University’s participation in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (go Devils!), ASU asked us to create a list of our ten favorite ways to fight hunger. This post covers options seven through ten. What are some of your favorite ways to fight hunger? Let us know by leaving a comment!

7. Support restaurants that donate their leftover food. Next time you go out to eat, think about supporting a restaurant that donates its extra food to those in need. Food Donation Connection (FDC) is an international organization that recovers leftover food from thousands of restaurants across the United States, including Arizona. Visit their website to see a list of their restaurant partners. FDC also works closely with WasteNOT, a Phoenix-based food recovery organization. You can also visit their website to see a list of donors in the Valley of of Sun.

8. Give a hunger-fighting gift. Not sure what to get for a loved one for a holiday or birthday gift? Consider buying them an animal from  Heifer International or World Vision. Don’t worry; a farm animal won’t be delivered to your house! Instead, you buy an animal in their name, and these organizations use the money you pay to purchase livestock for people living in the developing countries. Buying an animal through these organizations provides food as well as a source of income for a family in need. For example, if you buy someone a cow, they have a source of milk for their own consumption as well as to sell at the local market, providing a boost their local economy.

9. Remember to give year round. Food banks typically receive most of their donations in November and December. When February comes around, many food banks may already be running low on food. Next time you are shopping for groceries and notice a big sale on nonperishable food, think about buying a little extra than you normally would to share with your local food bank.

10. Get your kids involved. To continue to help feed the hungry, it is important that we teach the value of giving to our future generations. Encourage your child to organize a food drive with their classroom, sports team, or any other organization they are involved with.

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Ten Ways to Fight Hunger (four through six)

For Arizona State University’s participation in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (go Devils!), ASU asked us to create a list of our ten favorite ways to fight hunger. If you missed our list, don’t worry-we will post our entire top ten on the FlashFood blog! This post covers options four through six. What are some of your favorite ways to fight hunger? Let us know by leaving a comment!

4. Volunteer at a local food bank. There is always help needed at your local food banks in sorting, packaging, distributing, and serving donated food. Volunteering can be a rewarding experience, especially when shared with friends and family. Try organizing a company volunteering day for a valuable team building experience!

5. Use your talents. Food banks and other types of food charities often rely on volunteers to help with their office operations. For example, if you are an experienced accountant, volunteering to crunch numbers for a couple hours per week for a local food bank could be extremely helpful. Contact your local food bank or charity to learn about volunteer opportunities!

6. Spread Hunger Awareness. Keep an eye out for promotional campaigns led by hunger-fighting organizations and help them spread the word about their mission. For example, September is National Hunger Awareness Month. To educate the public on hunger in the US during this time, Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks, encourages everyone to get involved daily in simple ways, such as sharing hunger facts on Twitter and Facebook, or by wearing orange on September 6. These easy ways to get involved with campaigns such as Hunger Action Month can help inspire others to take action.

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Ten Ways to Fight Hunger

For Arizona State University’s participation in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (go Devils!), ASU asked us to create a list of our ten favorite ways to fight hunger. If you missed our list, don’t worry-we will post our entire top ten on the FlashFood blog! This post covers options one through three. What are some of your favorite ways to fight hunger? Let us know by leaving a comment!

1. Organize a canned food drive with your coworkers. Using an existing network of colleagues is a relatively easy way to mobilize a food drive. A good way to get co-workers involved is to send out a company-wide email letting them know the details of your food drive and instruct them drop the food off at the office. Local food charities will often pick up the food if given advance notice of donations. Taking this approach a step further to get even more food, try splitting up your office into teams and have a contest to see who can bring in the most cans. Assign points per can based on its type of food, as certain foods are needed more by pantries than others. Fun-spirited food drive competitions have potential to become memorable, yearly office traditions.

2. Go Halfsies. On average, American diners leave 17% of their meals uneaten at the restaurant, and only take about half of that percentage home as leftovers. This is a significant problem for America, as food is the highest waste stream in our landfills. Halfsies is an innovative organization seeking to solve this problem while at the same time feeding the hungry. Here’s how it works: Participating Halfsies restaurants give diners the option to “Go Halfsies” on certain meals. By going Halfsies, diners pay the full price for  the meal they order, but are only served a half portion of their meal. Half of what they pay is donated to Halfsies, with 60% of funds supporting local hunger charities and 30% going to global hunger charities. So, the next time you are at restaurant and don’t feel like you are hungry enough to eat a whole meal, consider “Going Halfsies”!

3. Citrus Gleaning. The Valley of the Sun has a lot of citrus trees! If you have citrus trees in your yard, consider taking your extra fruit to a local food bank. Sometimes, food charities, including St. Mary’s Food Bank and United Food Bank, organize volunteer groups that travel to homes to glean extra citrus. Contact your local foodbank to see how you can help!

-Jake

Food Waste from Restaurants, Caterers, and Grocery Stores

In this post, we address a two-part question that we have been asked a lot recently; “How much food is wasted by food service businesses (restaurants and caterers) and retailers (grocery stores, delis, convenience stores)?”

Food wasted from food service businesses

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that in 2008, food service businesses (restaurants, caterers, fast food, etc.) wasted 86 billion pounds of food. About 4-10 percent of this food is lost in preparation, while 17 percent of food that is served is left uneaten by customers (about half of this 17 percent is taken home). This leaves an immense portion of prepared food and ingredients that never leaves the kitchen, but is still good to eat, and could presumably be recovered for donations.

Food wasted from food retailers 

Data from a National Resource Defense Council report shows that in-store food losses added up to 43 billion pounds in 2008. Most food that grocers throw out is perishable, including fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, baked goods, and ready-made meals (for example, a cooked rotisserie chicken). This massive amount of  waste is typically viewed as unavoidable in the food retail industry. For example, consumers tend to prefer selecting fruit and vegetables from towering piles rather than small, half-empty bins. Consequently, produce is taken out of refrigeration earlier and thus this food spoils quicker and has to be thrown out earlier. Additionally, retail managers must always ensure that there is more than enough food to meet consumer demand; if a store does not have what people are looking to buy, they will shop elsewhere. When a manager of a grocery store sees less waste than normal while analyzing a sales report, they usually take this as an indication that the store is not being stocked with enough food to meet consumer demand.

Food waste will probably always be an unfortunate by-product of the food service and food retail industries. Food recovery is a great way for all types of food businesses to help those in need, and can oftentimes result in tax savings when donated to a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Are you interested in donating your business’s leftover food to feed the hungry? FlashFood is looking for restaurants to partner with as we continue to work on our mobile application and food recovery network. To learn more or become involved with our organization, email info@flashfoodrecovery.com. You can also visit our website and sign up for our newsletter.