Category Archives: FlashFood and Food Recovery News

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 You can also visit our website and sign up for our newsletter.


Giving Tuesday

Everyone knows that Black Friday marks the start of the holiday shopping season. While stores DO offer great deals for smart (and sometimes mildly aggressive) shoppers, the rush to buy, buy, buy, can wipe away all of the warm and fuzzy feelings created on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, non-profits around the country have come together to create a new anti-consumerism holiday to spark the benevolent behavior that the Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa-Winter Solstice season is supposed to be all about.  So Happy Giving Tuesday from FlashFood! We highly encourage you to celebrate this day by learning more about the giving movement and by making a donation to your favorite nonprofit.

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We’re Asking

On Thursday, November 15, I attended the Oxfam Hunger banquet at ASU’s Polytechnic campus. It was an amazing event to raise awareness for world hunger, and more importantly, to create a dialogue about the problem.  It’s one thing to be aware of hunger, but another entirely to live it, and to begin understand it.  Before last Thursday night I was aware of this problem, but I had never heard a story of hunger from someone who had actually lived through the experience of food insecurity.

Many powerful stories were told that night, but I would like to share three that have really resonated with me.

The first story is about a woman, who, as a young girl was asked by her mother to walk with her little brother to the grocery store to purchase food “on credit.”  There wasn’t much money for groceries in their budget, and her mother thought it would be harder for the shopkeeper to say no to little kids. After a while, the shopkeeper learned to say no to little kids, and the family went hungry.

Another story is about a man who used to live out of his car. He had three dogs, and there were weeks where he only had enough money either himself or his animals. He made sure that dogs always had enough to eat, but as a result he would sometimes be forced to  go up to a week surviving on only bread and water.

The final story is about a veteran who was once stationed in a village in the middle east. Food and water would arrive in trucks on a regular basis. But the trucks carrying food resembled the trucks carrying weapons, and for awhile no trucks got though roads.  For 11 days soldiers and villagers had to survive, not knowing when the next convoy of food would come in.  For the first 9 days, soldiers shared their rations with the whole village.  On the 10th day, when the rations ran out, the villagers shared what they had left with the soldiers.

When you entered the Oxfam hunger banquet you were given a card.  15% of the individuals were given a full dinner: pasta, salad, and a roll.  35% of attendees received a plate with just rice and beans.  The remaining 50% received just a small bowl of rice. This division reflects the global division of food security.  After a discussion on the food inequity represented on our plates, the moderator took a plate of pasta, salad and bread and handed it to someone who only received rice for dinner.  She tore a piece off the roll and passed the plate. He took a bite of pasta, the next girl had some salad and the plate kept going and going until it had reached everyone in the room.  Like the soldiers in the middle east, the man and his dogs, everyone in the room shared what little they had.

So, why don’t we give, why don’t we share? Not just in November and December, but why don’t we share what we have every week, every month, whenever there is a need?

This question was posed to the audience at Oxfam.

One person replied, “Because we’re selfish.”  I respectfully disagree.

I think it’s because no one asks, or when they do, as is the case of the man with the carboard sign on the corner, we think twice. Not because we lack compassion or generosity, but because we want to know that when we give, there will be good that comes of it.

We’re FlashFood, and we’re asking. Asking ourselves and our community to stand against hunger, to share what we have with those who need it most.


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“…We, the people, do have the power to stop this tragic waste of resources if we regard it as socially unacceptable to waste food on a colossal scale, if we make noise about it, tell corporations about it, tell governments we want to see an end to food waste, we do have the power to bring about that change.”

Over the weekend, our Facebook friend Charu sent us the link to a TED talk on “the Global Food Waste Scandal”. It perfectly illustrates the scale of the food waste problem, and is incredibly enlightening. This talk touches on all aspects of the food stream, and highlights how a shift in how we think about food can have far-reaching effects on the entire planet.  Fighting food waste is FlashFood’s mission, so we just have to share this video with you!

Tristram Stuart, the presenter in the TED talk, also runs a campaign to fight food waste called Feeding the 5000, to raise awareness about how much perfectly edible food goes to waste everyday! Check it out here.

September is ALSO Food Safety Month!

With September declared as Hunger Action Month and Food Safety Month, this must be FlashFood’s time of year!  There are many things to consider in the safe transport of perishable food, including avoiding contamination and respecting the appropriate time-temperature safety windows.

Food safety is important in the home as well.  How food-safety-savvy are YOU?  Take the quiz to test your know-how (answers below):

  1. True or False:  After Justin finishes filleting fish, he can use the same cutting board to chop onions.
  2. In the refrigerator, Molly has two shelves free and wants to store raw fish and a fresh vegetable salad.  Which should she put on the top shelf?
  3. Cesar loves making dishes with nuts, but knows that this is a common food allergy.  Which of the following is NOT a common food allergy symptom?
    • Nausea
    • Sneezing
    • Hives or rash
    • Vomiting
  4. At 7 o’clock p.m., Leah sets out a tray of cold cuts and cheeses for her buffet.  Can she leave it out until 10:30?

Interested in learning more about food safety?  Find out more from ServSafe!

Or check out the CDC or FDA websites

Food safety answer key:

  1. False.  Justin should not use the same cutting board for raw fish before vegetables, unless he sanitizes it in between.  Many kitchens even have separate cutting boards that are designated for certain ingredients like meat or vegetables.
  2. Molly should store the salad on top.  Prepared food, or food that will not be cooked, should always be stored above raw meat, poultry, and seafood to minimize cross-contamination from leakage.
  3. Sneezing is a common allergy symptom, but not for food allergies!  Besides nausea, hives, and vomiting, common food allergy symptoms include wheezing or shortness of breath, diarrhea, swelling of various parts of the body including the face, eyes, hands, or feet, and abdominal pain.  Get help immediately if you suspect a severe allergic reaction to food.
  4. Yes!  As long as the tray is kept below 70 degrees, either with ice or as a product of a cool ambient temperature.  After sitting out for up to 6 hours, even if the temperature of the tray is still less than 70 degrees, its contents should be discarded.


SNAP Awareness Week

As part of Hunger Action Month, this week (9/15-9/21) is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP) Awareness Week.  SNAP is the federal program that provides food purchasing assistance for 46 million Americans each month, mainly through food stamps.

To spread awareness of the increasing amount of Arizonans, and Americans, that rely on the SNAP program, board members and staff of the Arizona Community Action Association and Valley of the Sun United Way have taken a pledge to live on the SNAP program for this week. The daily food budget for a SNAP recipient is $4.16 per day and $97 per week for a family of four. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has also taken this pledge, and has been writing a daily blog about his experience. According to Mayor Stanton’s blog, there are 1.1 million Arizonans on SNAP. This is almost  double the amount of recipients in 2007.

Stanton’s blog also pointed out the lack of nutritional options suggested by SNAP for low budget meals. He writes:

“Part of this challenge is to try and eat healthy, not just survive.  I looked at the USDA’s recipe book and tips and there are some good shopping hints, but not all the meals look healthy to me, especially for kids.  One suggested breakfast was orange juice, hash brown potatoes, and biscuits with margarine. Another day suggests OJ, cooked rice cereal and toast. There’s no protein in that meal and the “fruit” is juice- that’s not going to stick with you. Kids have to be well nourished to pay attention in school- I’m concerned about struggling families being able to send their kids to school well-fed and ‘ready to learn.'”

Phoenix ranked as the 34th most food insecure city out of America’s largest 100 metropolitan areas.

How big of a problem is food insecurity in your city or town? How are its citizens in taking action to spread awareness and solve this problem?


E-Myth Conference

As FlashFood was accepted in the the Arizona State University Edson Student Entrepreneurship Accelerator (which we are extremely grateful for!), we receive valuable mentoring from experienced Phoenix entrepreneurs and access to insightful conferences to help us overcome the many challenges that come with starting a business. On Wednesday, Eric and I (this is Jake writing) had the privilege of attending the Arizona chapter of Entrepreneur’s Organization’s (EO) E-myth (E is for entrepreneur) Conference.

In case you are not familiar with E-myth, it is a book written by legendary business consultant, Michael Gerber, who was the keynote for the event. During his talk, Gerber focused on the theme of E-myth, which explores why most small businesses fail and what can be done to prevent them from failing. Drawing on 30 plus years of experience in consulting, Gerber explained that most businesses fail because they lack a system that allows them to run successfully on their own. The overall message (and very simplified) is entrepreneurs should focus on creating a working system that can be duplicated rather than trying to “be” their business, or run it all on their own. Even more simplified, don’t micro-manage! To illustrate his point, he uses the example of the success of McDonald’s, the world’s most successful franchise, with over 35,000 stores worldwide.

This seminar came at a perfect time for us, as we are working hard to perfect our food recovery process in Phoenix and eventually scale nationally, hopefully someday internationally. Gerber’s advice is valuable for every type of business, whether it be for profit or nonprofit,  social entrepreneurship-focused or traditional. So if you are starting a businesses, a club at your university, or a cause you are passionate about, we recommend you read E-myth. We certainly will!

Have any other good examples of successful business systems to share? Have you started your own business and were helped by E-myth? Leave a comment!


Project 7

FlashFood would like to send out a big THANK YOU to Project 7  for sending our team a fantastic care package. The organic coffee, gum, and mints, will help our team stay awake and alert during long meetings and driver shifts!

Project 7 has a great mission: raising money to do good around the world by selling quality products. These include organic Nicaraguan coffee (shown above), whose profits go to feeding the hungry in American communities, and water bottles that are sold in order to raise money for anti-malarial drugs. Their products are sold nationwide at stores such as Target and Walmart, so next time your shopping pick up some Feed the Hungry mints!

September is Hunger Action Month

Hello Flash-Foodies, it’s that time of year again, and Feeding America, the nation’s leading hunger relief charity, is back in action leading the fight against hunger in the United States. As you all know, hunger is serious problem in America. Check out this video as a reminder of the struggles that millions of America’s families face:

Although this video is a bit of a downer, there are a lot of ways that you can help take action against hunger this month.

Visit the Hunger Action Month site to find your nearest food bank, make a pledge, or share facts about hunger on social media.

It can be hard for most people to break away from busy schedules to volunteer or afford monetary donations. Here are some other ways you can help the cause:

  • Share a hunger fact with your friend
  • Show your support for Feeding America on Facebook and Twitter
  • Wear orange Thursday Sept. 6 (and the rest of the month!)
  • Here is a list of more ways you can help!

What creative ways are you fighting hunger this month? Post a comment and let us know!


“Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill”

In the past few years, many environmental and sustainability organizations have drawn attention to the fact that global food production is a highly resource intensive cycle, and that much can be done to improve the sustainability of this cycle (i.e. composting, meatless Mondays, going completely vegan, buying organic product, etc.) However, little attention has been paid to the fact that 40% of the food produced in the US ends up in the landfill, a statistic that has risen by 50% in the past 40 years. Although the USDA released a report in 1997 on food loss in America, few studies have been conducted since. Last month, the National Resource Defense Council published a new report entitled “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill”, which highlights how much, and in what ways, food is wasted at each step of the food supply chain. Some important points raised by the paper include:

  • A significant amount of food is wasted at every stage of the food supply chain, so a plan to reduced national food waste needs to be fairly comprehensive. Production, Post-Harvest, Handling and Storage, Processing and Packaging, Distribution and Retail, as well as Consumer-level food losses all need to be addressed.
  • American families throw out approximately 25% of all the food that they buy. This is due to a number of factors including undervaluing food (it’s cheap and readily available for most people), spoilage, as well as impulse and bulk purchases. For the average household of four, this means $1,350 to $2,275 are wasted each year due to unused groceries.
  • Sell by and use by dates are NOT federally regulated (except for certain baby foods), and do not indicated food safety. These labels are merely manufacturers’ suggestions for “peak quality”, but confusion over these labels has contributed 20% of avoidable food waste.

The NRDC’s report also provides a number of recommendations on waste reduction for policy makers and consumers. Here are our favorites:

  • Support and enable food recovery especially through stronger tax incentives for food donations, which would make it profitable for restaurants, processing factories, retail outlets, and farmers, to redirect the food away from the landfill and onto someone’s plate.
  • Revise quality and aesthetic standards at each level of the supply chain to ensure that perfectly good produce does not go to waste simply because it isn’t pretty enough. This can be done by finding other outlets for unwanted food such as discount grocery stores, or separate product lines for imperfect produce.
  • Promote flexible menus at restaurants that “use specials to flush out inventory, limit menu choices [which can limit the number of ingredients necessary for the restaurant to stock], planning for food re-purposing, and avoiding large buffets [where unused food cannot be recovered].”

Here at FlashFood, we hope that this report will draw attention to the huge missed opportunity (for sustainability and anti-hunger initiatives) that is national food waste. Follow this link to the full report.

What do you think is the biggest issue contributing to waste within the food supply chain? Do you think the NRDC’s recommendations are feasible?

–Mary Hannah