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Sustainability

New national initiative looks to cut food waste

An alliance formed by the National Restaurant Association and two other food industry groups has announced an agreement with three departments of the U.S. government.
Photograph: Shutterstock

The National Restaurant Association has pledged the foodservice industry’s support behind a new national endeavor to slash food waste.

An alliance formed by the Association and two other food industry groups announced an agreement earlier this week with three departments of the U.S. government—the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills. A key part of the initiative calls for deflecting discarded food fit for human consumption to the needy.

Other components include matching food production more closely with demand to reduce waste and finding other purposes for food that has to be discarded.

The means include educating constituents of the participating trade groups on practices that reduce waste, and easing the process of donating food to those in need. 

The restaurant association's co-founders of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance are two groups serving the retail food industry: the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The group now includes a number of foodservice operators, including Aramark, Sodexo, Chick-fil-A, Darden Restaurants, White Castle, The Cheesecake Factory and Yum Brands. 

The agreement will likely add topspin to the efforts of individual restaurants and other foodservice facilities to reduce waste for environmental, humanitarian and business reasons. The restaurant industry in particular has been struggling with an erosion of customer traffic. Reducing food waste has grown in importance as operators try to keep a tighter check on food costs, in part by cutting how much food ends up in garbage bins. 

Estimates hold that about 36% of the nation’s food supply ends up being discarded. In many instances, the food is edible yet nonetheless discarded because too much was prepared or the raw ingredients were unsightly. 

“We look forward to working with our partners to share best practices on food waste reduction and, with greater clarity on liability protections for food donation, make it easier for owners and operators to make food donations in their communities,” Dawn Sweeney, CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. “By reducing food waste, we can serve those in need today and set the table for success tomorrow.”

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