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A Need to Educate and Collaborate on Food Waste; Reflections from last week’s FWRA Food Waste Stakeholder Convening

October 13, 2015

By: Meghan Stasz, Senior Director of Sustainability

Food waste is a major issue in the U.S. and globally, and last Tuesday, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) held an all-day meeting with other industry stakeholders focused on wasted food in the U.S. and spent the day discussing what is being done to address the problem.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the other founding members of FWRA – the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and National Restaurant Association (NRA) – joined an impressive group of government groups, NGOs and industry organizations. We updated each other on current efforts and projects, shared perspectives on the issue of food waste, identified opportunities for collaboration to overcome barriers and worked to coordinate individual efforts. Looking back, three distinct themes emerged as priorities moving forward: education, measurement and partnership.

Food waste happens everywhere along the supply chain – from farms to manufacturing facilities to grocery stores and restaurants to homes. This means that everyone has a role to play in reducing waste. But because so many people don’t know just how much food is wasted or the environmental and social implications that come as a result, this is where education comes in.

Last week, we heard from experts working to inform and engage consumers on how to shop smarter and reduce waste in their own homes. These included a group called SustainableAmerica which recently launched a consumer education website and the Natural Resources Defense Council, (NRDC) which is working with the Ad Council on a campaign to help consumers understand the issue and provides tips on how to change behavior. This kind of work is instrumental in getting the message out and helping U.S. households save money and reduce food waste and its environmental impact.

A second major theme was the importance of measuring food waste, especially in the food supply chain. This often means educating companies about food waste first and then helping them understand the value of measuring that waste.

Companies across sectors have a difficult time measuring exactly how much of their waste stream is organic material and further understanding of how much of it is good, nutritious food that could go to those in need or be turned into energy or composted, as opposed to being sent to landfill. As a result, the FWRA and many other groups are developing tools and methods to help companies – large and small – measure their food waste. The business adage of “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” really comes into play here, as companies often see immediate opportunities for improvement once they understand their food waste.

Finally, the attendees talked about the power of and need for partnerships to solve the many reasons for food waste, including sharing stories of existing efforts like the three companies in the Midwest who are splitting the cost and use of an anaerobic digester, which turns food scraps into energy, and several food donation groups who highlighted the effectiveness of successful partnerships. Every day retail grocery stores and restaurants have food to donate and their local food bank is not only a source of expertise on how to get that food to the hungry, but also on the critical pieces of the supply chain that make donation successful. From transportation to food safety to storing and distributing food, partnerships between food businesses and food banks are a win-win for all involved. It’s through partnerships like these, in fact, that helped the food manufacturing industry donate 106 million pounds of food annually, according to a recent FWRA study.

Last month, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced the country’s first ever goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. GMA strongly supports this challenge and knows that in order to get there, everyone has a role to play.

Tuesday’s meeting highlighted that the way to do that is through education, measurement and partnerships up and down the supply chain, working together to find opportunities to generate less waste, recycle unavoidable food waste (like peels and rinds), diverting it from landfills, and get food to those who need it. We are excited about the work already underway and look forward to future opportunities for collaboration.

 

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  1. […] been talking about food waste a lot lately: about the size of the problem, why GMA co-founded the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) with the Food Marketing Institute and […]

    Pingback by Best Practices by Companies to Reduce Food Waste — November 13, 2015 @ 1:22 pm

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