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Summary: Here are the key points about food waste covered in this post in order of appearance:

  1. There are opportunities for reducing waste across every stage of a food’s life: Farming, processing, retail, and consumer.
  2. Individuals are the largest contributors to food waste; therefore, they can have the greatest impact towards reducing food waste. See below for food saving tips.
  3. Chowbotics is working hard to reduce food waste through food service innovation.

The USDA states that the U.S. wastes 30-40% of food grown for consumption, with consumers being the number one culprit accounting for 30% of this waste. Beyond the social impact this has, food waste poses an environmental issue as well. Food that goes uneaten impacts the land and water resources necessary to produce such food. More alarmingly, food waste is the largest category filling up municipal landfills contributing to increasing rates of methane gas in our environment. Reducing food waste lowers greenhouse gases—particularly, methane—improves soil, and frees up fresh water for consumption.  Read on to discover how Chowbotics plans to reduce food waste and learn tips for reducing your own waste.

Opportunities for reducing food waste:

There are opportunities for reducing waste across every stage of a food’s life: at the farm, processing plant, grocery store, restaurant, and consumer level.

Farming: Food that would normally go to waste due to cosmetic appearance can be recovered. A great example of this is the company, Imperfect Produce, which gives consumers the opportunity to purchase cosmetically defective fruit and vegetables at deep discounts.

Processing: Trimmings and peels can be gathered for use in recipes calling for scraps such as stocks and sauces. Dan Barber’s popup kitchen, WastED is famous for taking scraps and incorporating them into delicious meals.

Grocery Retail: Foods near their expiration can be sold at a reduced price or donated. Grocery Outlet is a great example of this practice.

Hospitality: Smaller portion sizes in specific cases, and better insights into customer behaviors for forecasting and recipe planning is key to reducing waste.

Consumer: Knowing where and how to store food items can increase shelf-life. Follow our food saving tips below to reduce food waste at home.

Food Saving Tips:

In the midst of writing this post, I felt hungry, so I headed to my fridge where I found wilting vegetables, a container with some sauce from something, a questionable slice of pizza, and jars of condiments that are beyond their “best by” dates. Instead of being disheartened by my hypocrisy, I felt invigorated; I did have to throw away the pizza slice and a jar of molding jam, but I was able to salvage the vegetables by whipping up a stew and I taste tested all my forgotten jars – turns out, most of them were still good.

With approximately 30% of food waste coming from the home, we have an opportunity to make a huge impact on an individual level.  Here are small changes each of us can make to reduce food waste at home:

  • Subscribe to one of many food recovery / food waste blogs to keep the topic in your inbox and top of mind. My favorite is the NRDC’s (Natural Resources Defense Council) save the food campaign: https://www.savethefood.com/
  • Shop the fridge before heading to the store. Knowing what’s in the refrigerator and in the cupboard is key to avoiding redundant food purchases which lead to unnecessary waste.
  • Use the whole vegetable, meat, seafood
    • Stop peeling vegetables. Just give cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables a good scrub before incorporating them into any recipe.
    • Use the scraps: save the bones, and organs from meat, poultry, and seafood in the freezer. Once you’ve accumulated enough animal parts, toss them along with wilting vegetables and greens into a pot to make a stock. Vegetarians and vegans can follow this practice with veggies alone.
  • Use leftovers. If you’re like me, you may not enjoy eating the same thing two days in a row. Use leftovers to make a new meal. If you only have a couple of tablespoons left over from a dish, pulse it in a blender to create a base for a sauce in your next meal.
  • Follow best practices for food storage. Here’s a great general food storage resource.
  • Bread is the most commonly wasted household food item – here are some great tips for reducing this waste:
    • Cut what you’ll consume in a day or two, freeze the rest. Freezing tip: wrap the bread tightly with plastic wrap before placing in the freezer.
    • Reviving stale or frozen bread is easy. Spray a little water over stale or frozen bread and pop it into the oven for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
    • Use stale bread to make your own croutons and bread crumbs or make an indulgent bread pudding or tasty French toast.

 Chowbotics is committed to reducing food waste:

At Chowbotics, we are doing our best to be part of the solution to reduce food waste. When we test recipes and ingredients, we encourage the team to eat the test salads, grain bowls, and snacks. When there’s too much to eat, we compost any remaining scraps.  In addition to Chowbotics’ commitment to reducing our company’s food waste, we’re making products that contribute to other companies’ waste reduction.  Sally, our robot that prepares fresh made-to-order meals, is a great example in using technology to reduce food waste.

Here’s how she keeps ingredients fresher than a traditional salad bar, hot bar, or snack bar:

  • Sally’s ingredient canisters are closed at the top and the bottom, making them almost airtight mitigating the risk of spoilage caused by air.
  • The ingredients are encased in a refrigerated environment, kept at a crisp 38 degrees Fahrenheit to optimize freshness. Sally provides temperature logs every 15 minutes to ensure ingredients are consistently kept at proper temperatures.
  • Not only does Sally keep ingredients fresh, her software provides valuable user insights such as ingredient preference and usage allowing for more accurate forecasting and menu planning. This enables operators to reduce waste by knowing which ingredients will sell and which ingredients they should leave off their menus.

Key takeaway: Individuals can make an impact to reduce food waste and achieve a better environment.