Step 1: Understand the Food Recovery Hierarchy!
We have to start somewhere, so let's start with understanding where excess food goes.
The EPA has created a Food Recovery Hierarchy which prioritizes actions organizations can take to prevent and divert wasted food. The following strategies show the best sustainable management to reduce waste and the associated impacts over the entire life cycle of food:
1. Source Reduction
2. Feed Hungry People
3. Feed Animals
4. Industrial Uses
The top levels are where we want to be as they are the best ways to create the most benefits for the environment, society and the economy. The goal is the prevent food waste in the first place. That's where the creative minds in the Event Industry need to focus first: how to prevent wasted food through source reduction?
We'll talk about each of these, but for now, let's start with creative ways we can reduce food waste by how we manage our events.
We want to be at the top. Not at the bottom!
Let's put this in context. Nearly 1/3 of food produced is lost or wasted in the United States-meaning it never makes it to the table for consumption. When you combine the economic losses and environmental impact, it means, more than a billion tons of food never gets eaten, while 1 in 9 people are undernourished. *WFP 2019. Additionally, if food loss and waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the Unites States. *FAO 2015.
So by reducing food loss and waste, we not only impact the economy, but also improve food security and the environment.
In the event industry, we are always looking at the bottom line. We want more for less. If we can save money on one area, we can allocate it elsewhere and improve the bottom line.
Champions 12.3 recently published a report making the business case that reducing waste saves money. The initial up front investment which enable food waste reduction, saves you money. Waste reduction programs are less expensive than the food that is thrown away. That should get your attention!