Food Waste in the Corporate sector – A perspective from UC Berkeley Students!

Food, Equity, Entrepreneurship, & Development (FEED) is a food justice consulting student organization in UC Berkeley. In spring 2019, we continued our partnership with Outside2Inside to determine how we can best expand the impact and outreach of current and new programs to corporations in a variety of different industries in the Bay Area. When we first began our project, we examined food waste trends in the bay area. Through our research we found that one of the primary sources of food waste stems from widespread expectations of perfection among retailers and consumers that prompts corporations to reject produce that may be misshapen. From there, we applied these findings to inform further research on the industries in which these trends are most prevalent within. Our results included information on the aerospace, entertainment, catering, hospitality, agriculture, grocery, manufacturing, education, and large companies. Based on the average amount of food wasted in pounds and cost of food waste, we determined that the hospitality, catering, and grocery industries had the most potential for food waste management improvements.

Champions 12.3, a coalition of business and government leaders interested in reducing food waste, compiled a report that examined financial cost and benefit data for 86 sites in six countries where waste-reduction practices had been employed. They found that for every $1 that a catering company isn’t spending on food waste reduction, $6 of food will be wasted. This indicates just how much waste occurs within the catering industry, signaling to us an opportunity to make changes that could help reduce their impact. When we were coming up with programs we could potentially implement, we used this as a core goal to inform that ripe or misshapen produce, is still nutritional and just as delicious. When we came up with Farm2Work, it stemmed from the existing Farm2School program in O2I that brought produce to school children in hopes of educating them that wonky produce was just as good. Farm2Work aims to bring wonky produce to the workforce for the convenience of the corporate employees and to help farmers sell off any leftover produce they might not otherwise have been able to sell. In general, poor collaboration among all players in the field where farmers may be harvesting earlier or more than usual leading to a supply in stores that cannot sell as much. Through this experience and learning about food waste, we have learned a lot about how consumer’s standards shape how much food waste occurs. Throughout the bay area, we found food waste in grocery chains that were local and even places we shop at.

This made us feel like we should make a more conscious effort to buy wonky produce because we know that it is just as good for us and the environment. In addition to informing consumers about the viability and nutrition of misshapen produce, another aspect of food waste prevention we took on was raising awareness of methods for disposing food scraps. In particular, we dealt with spreading composting as a means to discard food scraps rather than landfilling. With the great program that Outside2Inside currently has in educating individuals on the process of compost, we looked to expand this into the corporate world. Similar to Farm2Work, another program was created with the goal of bringing composting to corporates in the Bay Area. Named Compost4You, this program seeks to increase company awareness and engagement in food waste reduction by implementing composting programs for companies that need them. This program was created out of alignment with the previous core values discussed, aiming to fundamentally reduce food waste and decrease the harmful effects of landfilling.

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