Reducing Food Waste: Tradition, Not Trend

In 2018, we see the issue of food waste making headlines almost daily. Although there is still work to be done in building awareness and teaching food waste reduction skills, this topic has been receiving far more attention lately than in previous years.

However, there is one industry that seems to have preceded recent trends. The restaurant industry, as well as regional cuisines, have historically been based on efforts to reduce food waste. And both seem to have similar motivations.

First, let’s consider the restaurant industry. It’s no secret that restaurants are well-known for their narrow profit margins and extensive competition. For this reason, restaurants and chefs have been quick to prevent food waste in their domains. It couldn’t be clearer in this context: wasting food is equivalent to wasting money, shrinking profits and reduced competitive edge. From this culture of thrift, we see the emergence of creative and tasty dishes featuring ingredients recreated in novel and surprising ways. And to think, we pay good money for these food scraps!

To a greater extent, regional and then national cuisines have long served to absorb and re-imagine by-products from the food chain. Many great cuisines are built on using leftovers, eating with the seasons, saving money and cooking with scraps. Thriftiness, it seems, has traditionally been the foundation of many great cuisines.

If not for thriftiness, how might the British have come up with the traditional “bubble and squeak” meal? For those unfamiliar with this dish, it is made from potatoes, cabbage and leftover vegetables typically originating from a roast dinner. Combined and fried, this is a tasty and traditional way to use up leftovers.

In fact, many countries have their own version of this British staple. Although they are found under different and increasingly difficult to pronounce names (rumbledethumps from Scotland, anyone?), these dishes are similar in both their ingredients as well as their quick and simple preparation steps.

For centuries, out of both necessity and sometimes desperation, our ancestors have come up with creative ways to re-imagine food. Today, we give these cooking techniques trendy and catchy names like “nose-to-tail” or “root-to-fruit” cooking. However, historically these methods have been simply known as “cooking” and were seen everywhere, not just in restaurants.

So, for both restaurants and cuisine, reducing food waste seems to be more of a tradition, rather than a trend.

To learn more about creative leftover ideas and how to make bubble and squeak at home, visit the love food hate waste UK website: https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/recipe/bubble-and-squeak

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Starbucks Pledges to Donate 100% of Surplus Food

Starbucks, the largest coffee company in the United States, has recently pledged to donate 100% of their unused food to shelters, food banks, and charities over the next five years.

Although the company has donated food in the past, this initiative is a commitment to going beyond shelf-stable food and pastries to include perishable, “ready-to-eat” products that will be donated with the help of refrigerated trucks, with the hope that the food will be delivered to those in need within 24 hours of donating.

Previous concerns were about the viability of donating these perishable foods, especially in areas with warmer climates. Logistics for this scale of food donation can be daunting without the right equipment and rigorous commitment to quality along all levels of the supply chain.

Starbucks is partnering with Feeding America and Food Share for this initiative. More information can be found here: http://mashable.com/2016/03/22/starbucks-food-donations-foodshare/

The intricate web of food waste

food issue map

Designer Christina Amelie Jensen created this web to show the ‘issue space’ of food waste in the restaurant context. One can imagine how much more complex the web would become if it were to include other sectors. For instance, how would it change if it were looking at the household level? This web is useful for beginning to think about the many connected actors and processes that contribute to the creation and disposal of food waste.

Image from: http://designobserver.com/article.php?id=34178