Cal Dining at the University of California, Berkeley, has found a way to reduce food waste with an approach that examines the problem before the first onion is cut or tomato is sliced.
The idea, according to Michelle Fay, program manager for San Francisco-based StopWaste, is to minimize food waste during meal preparation by first tracking the amount of waste generated, which in turn changes the way food purchases are made.
According to a project report, Cal Dining was able to reduce its food waste by 20% during the first year of the program—between August 2011 and September 2012. The result was a savings of more than $98,000 in avoided food purchases, which would have generated 27 tons of waste.
“Even if it’s being composted, it’s better not to generate that food waste in the first place,” Fay says. Cal Dining recently was recognized for its efforts when it was awarded with StopWaste’s 2013 Business Efficiency Award for Waste Reduction Excellence in Institutional Food Service.
Tracking food waste is done with equipment and software from LeanPath, which weighs and records the waste and then calculates the cost of the item being discarded. The initiative began a couple of years ago with a $35,000 grant from StopWaste. StopWaste is a shortened term for the agency that is made up of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board.