By André Villaseñor of U.S. EPA

It’s Thursday night, and our family is preparing the weekly shopping list. My spouse checks the refrigerator to see if it’s tastefully empty. Meanwhile, I shop our kitchen first to see what we already have. Our fraternal twins eagerly engage in smart saving by telling us what needs to be eaten first.
Tastefully empty? Shop your kitchen first? Smart Saving? These are kitchen strategies we pursue to reduce the volume of surplus food generated, otherwise known as Source Reduction. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?
Yet nation-wide, despite our collective intention to consume the food we procure, 1/3 of it ends up uneaten. Food sent to landfills and incinerators has an annual value of $161 billion, according to 2010 data.
To put our money where our mouth is, in 2015 EPA and the USDA set a national goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50% by the year 2030. For success, the goal requires all hands on-deck, both in business and at home, with source reduction as the top priority.
There’s much attention given to composting our food scraps or donating our surplus food to feed hungry people. And rightfully so. We generate so much surplus food that if recovered just 15%, we could feed 25 million people. The reason we often have abundant extra food to give away or send to a compost pile is because we make our purchases without first engaging in source reduction.

EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy Pyramid
The Food Recovery Hierarchy Pyramid teaches us the most important ways to recover food.

Of all the activities on EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, source reduction is the most economically beneficial for food service entities, like restaurants and supermarkets.
According to The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss & Waste, for every $1 that a business invests in source reduction, such as measuring its excess food and improving inventory management, $14 are saved through reduced waste management costs and avoided food purchases.
Food waste prevention comes in many varieties. The most important first step is to measure your excess food. The mere act of food waste tracking has a $1 billion profit potential, according to ReFed. Food Recovery Challenge awardee The Forge Restaurant knows this, which is why they measure and keep a record of all their excess food. By methodically tracking their excess food at their three daily buffets, they were able to avoid $4000 in waste hauling fees in 2017.

Food Waste Scale
Excess food tracking scale at The Forge Restaurant – FRC awardee.

Once you know what, why and how much food is going to trash, you can prevent excess food by using smaller plates, shopping your kitchen first before creating a shopping list, and engaging in smart saving by turning today’s leftovers into tomorrow’s lunch.

Through its deployment of tastefully empty food service pans and other source reduction measures, the San Diego Unified School District saves nearly $400,000 per year in avoided food purchases.
This year EPA, FDA and USDA signed an agreement dubbed the Winning on
Reducing Food Waste Interagency Strategy. By combining forces with the public and private sectors, the federal government is leading a call to action to all sectors of American society to prioritize collaborative food waste reduction.
By now, you know that landfilling and incineration are the least preferred methods of managing our hard-earned food surplus, which is why each week my family strives to put our food where our mouth is. As a nation, let’s keep our bellies full and our landfills tastefully empty!

Info: epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/how-prevent-wasted-food-through-source-reduction

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