Business solutions that help to reduce food waste

Business solutions that help to reduce food waste

Up to 40 percent of food grown in the US for human consumption is wasted. According to José Alvarez, solutions are being developed by retailers, farmers, academics, policymakers and social organizations.

by Dina Gerdeman

Up to 40 percent of food grown in the United States for humans
Consumption is wasted. Source: Eivaisla
After decades of food waste eradicating perfectly good food while poverty sustains hunger for many families, solutions are started by grocers, farmers, academics, policymakers and social services organizations.

“We see a movement to rethink what we are doing as a food industry and as a consumer,” says José Alvarez, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, former CEO of Stop & Shop. “We’re trying to find ways to buy groceries that supermarkets, manufacturers and farmers can not sell, pick up and give to people who can afford a meal or a meal at a reduced price.” We also try for decades to misjudge what make safe and consumable food, to turn back. ”

Alvarez was a moderator at a conference at Harvard Law School in June on Reduce and Restore: Eat Food for People. Celebrity figures from the movement attended the conference, including Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council, author of the White Paper Wasted (pdf); Emily Broad Body of Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, co-author with Gunders of the Dating Game (pdf); and Tristram Stuart, author of the book Waste.

The question is more than an academic topic for Alvarez. Immigrated to the United States, his mother passionately reinforced the message at his table, not to waste food. It was clear that other family members in their home country did not enjoy the abundance of food.

Thus, the fight against food was a sort of crusade for Alvarez. Executives from various disciplines discussed at the conference how to address the fact that up to 40% of food produced in the US for human consumption is wasted while about 15% of US households are considered “food insecure”. meaning that they do not have reliable access to affordable and nutritious food.

As a buyer of products at the beginning of his career, Alvarez went to farms after being selected for the best fruit and vegetables sold in the stores and was amazed at the amount of edible food that was thrown away.

“If you could get consumers to go to a farm to see what the fields look like after they’ve selected the perfect product, they’d be totally disgusted by the good food left over,” he says. “There are millions of pounds of delicious and nutritious food that is plowed every year.”

This has changed in recent years.

The conference participants discussed organized efforts to collect and use food that would otherwise be thrown away. For example, volunteer teachers visit farms to collect products that have been rejected as too imperfect to be sold in regular stores so that food can be given. And technology experts create computer applications that enable farmers, retailers, manufacturers, and wholesalers to connect with organizations that accept and distribute food that would otherwise be thrown away.

Solutions for food waste

Alvarez has written several case studies, including an article on former President of Trader Joe 2012 and a member of Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative: Doug Rauch: The Solution to the US Food Paradox. The case was co-authored by Ryan Johnson, a research associate at the Global Research Group.

Rauch found a solution: In June 2015, he opened the Daily Table, a non-profit grocery store in Dorchester, Massachusetts, working with producers, supermarkets, manufacturers and other suppliers. Eat. The store then sells food at substantially lower prices than grocery stores and convenience stores, in most cases at half price, so families can eat healthier, even on a tight budget.

Open for just over a year, the business is booming – and it could be the first of many, says Alvarez, who joined the board after writing the case.

One of Rauch’s key decisions was to sell cheap food instead of distributing it to animal shelters for free.

For many people it is embarrassing to accept documents, says Rauch. “They want to support their families with dignity, retail because the customer has the power of the purse, gives power to the buyer and creates a worthy exchange in the relationship.

In addition to producing bread and other foods, Daily Table runs a large commercial kitchen with chef Ismail Samad, whose team prepares healthy meals such as chicken, fish, beef and vegetables. vegetarian dishes. as well as a variety of soups, chilli, smoothies and salads. (Appetizers usually cost between $ 1.99 and $ 3.99, a large salad base costs $ 1.49 and a large protein salad cooked $ 2.99.) Ready meals have proved popular because many people use public transport. and have little time for cooking.

Recently, the organization conducted a study to find out if a family participating in the additional nutritional aid program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, spent the month eating at the daytime table. The results showed that Daily Table is probably the only place in the US where it is possible.

“One of the key things Doug understood after meeting community groups was that it was not enough to deliver the ingredients,” says Alvarez, noting that Dorchester has one of the highest levels of obesity in Massachusetts. , “It helps the community find a simple and affordable way to feed itself, and that has a big impact.”

Alvarez, who spent 20 years in the food retailing industry, worked from 2006 to 2008 as General Manager of Stop & Shop, seeking his own solutions to the food waste problem, earning $ 16 billion in sales. One thing that annoyed him was that the food stalls in the store were too big, which meant that a lot of food was wasted, especially perishable goods, including seafood, meat, and products.

“It was about stacking up, making it look good and seeing it fly through the door.”

But one day later, he noticed, 10 pounds of groceries had been sold, but it was still 20 pounds that were hit by many buyers and disappeared in the light. “I looked at it and said that there is a lot of garbage here, what can we do?”

The staging with smaller amounts of food was a start. Alvarez and his team followed a pay-based approach, indicating only the approximate amount of food the store would likely sell that day. This allowed managers to order what was needed for the day. Excess material was stored in boxes and refrigerated for extended storage.

“If you sell half a box, you only show half a box,” he said. “In the 18 months since the introduction of this new process, we’ve saved $ 100 million in wasted food, handling and disposal costs every year.”

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Part of the problem of food waste is also our pursuit of marketing perfection, says Alvarez.

“We have set a very high bar for what people can accept and market,” he says. “The apple you see in the store must be the perfect apple.”

He says: If you start with the premise that food stalls always have to be full and always have to be perfect, the staff will eliminate a product that does not look right and throw it into the compost pile. This leads to similar behavior among warehouse and warehouse workers. This goes as far as the person who picks the fruit and forwards many imperfect pieces for fear that the compensation will not come from the fruits that are on the sidelines.

“They end up with a wasteful system,” says Alvarez. “So we try to make the industry think: Can we have an unpleasant production – carrots with an extra leg – if we’re used to the perfect carrot? In nature, carrots come out in different ways – nature is not perfect.

Another problem contributing to food waste is the date of consumption labeling of the product. Alvarez says they were created in the 1970s to find an easy way for shop workers to turn products and stack newly arrived items in the back.

We tend to think that food can no longer be consumed according to the data shown on these labels, but Alvarez notes that products are generally considered “better when used” and that it is a bad idea that food deteriorates one day after the given date. Product. “Date tags have nothing to do with the safety and the flow of food,” he says.

He is encouraged by Congress’s efforts to standardize food labels and remove what is now a patchwork of state laws.

“Many manufacturers and distributors listen,” he says. “Everyone has a grandmother who says, ‘Do not waste food. “It has a lot of momentum because it’s healthy.”

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