Managing food waste in New York State
NYSP2I partners with the businesses who make up New York State’s food system, including food retailers like grocery stores, food producers and distributors, and restaurants on food waste diversion initiatives.
Food retailers contribute 13% of the total amount of food waste generated in the United States. Not only does that waste stress our environment, it is also a financial burden for the businesses who need to handle and dispose of it. Grocery stores experience the challenges of food waste each day, but often lack the resources or expertise to tackle them.
NYSP2I’s Food Sustainability Program was created to meet this need through site assessments, action plans, and resource provision. We were contracted to help three New York State grocery stores to measure the amount of edible and inedible food waste they were producing, to understand how it was being generated, and to put into place strategies for reducing, diverting, or eliminating it.
A one-day food waste assessment was performed at each grocery store. We collected and measured food waste on-site, evaluated results, and produced a summary that outlined key findings and improvement opportunities. Through this study, we developed a toolbox that other grocery stores can use to self-assess their food waste production. By creating a standard method that documents requirements at each step of the assessment (i.e., methods for collecting waste and noting what information to record), meaningful and actionable data can be gathered quickly.
The results of the assessments offered substantial data with which to launch a practical, cost-effective food waste diversion program within each grocery store. Key features of that program included:
- increasing data-driven decision-making to forecast food waste production
- using irregularly shaped or discolored produce in prepared foods
- donating food to local food banks and food pantries
- implementing a multi-faceted food diversion strategy
- developing relationships with an organic waste haulers and rendering service providers (for fats and oils).