When I think about reusing an item, I typically figure out how I can repurpose it and use it in a way that was not originally intended. However, taking this concept and applying it to food doesn’t exactly work. With hunger being a problem in every city in this nation, it is important that restaurateurs know how to give their unused food products a second life while helping members of their community, and this is where the National Restaurant Association steps in. The National Restaurant Association is a nearly 100-year-old membership organization, and like most other businesses and nonprofits in existence today, it focuses on sustainability and corporate social responsibility. One of the sustainability arenas is food donation. To foster this process, the National Restaurant Association has partnered with Food Donation Connection (FDC).Composting Restaurant Food Waste The FDC works with restaurants across the United States as well as in Canada, the U.K. and Australia. In 2009, 7,355 participating restaurants donated 22 million pounds of food to 3,435 agencies. Some of the nation’s most popular restaurants participate in this program, including Chipotle, Cracker Barrel and The Cheesecake Factory. While restaurant owners may be focused on reducing waste by building energy-efficient buildings, creating on-site composting and recycling programs and even reusing cooking oil to provide power to their restaurant, they also need to reduce their food waste. According to the EPA, food scraps are one of the top three waste generators in our country. Paper accounts for 31% of the waste generated in our nation, yard trimmings make up 13.2% and food scraps contributed 12.7% of the total waste generated in the United States. This 12.7% is equal to 32 million tons of waste, and unfortunately, less than 3% of this waste was recovered, donated, reused, recycled or otherwise diverted from landfills. Although this 32 million tons of food waste is generated from both commercial establishments and consumers, it definitely leaves a lot of room for improvement. While there are many ways for restaurant owners to donate unused food, the FDC program focuses on making the process simple for restaurant owners. FDC has a six-step process that allows restaurant owners to safely prepare unused food for delivery to local organizations:
  1. Identify the food to be donated.
  2. Safely package and label food.
  3. Carefully weigh the donated product.
  4. Properly chill then freeze the product in a provided pan.
  5. Document quantity of the product.
  6. Submit logs to FDC for processing.
That’s it. When restaurants donate food, it is a win on so many levels. Waste is diverted from landfills, families in need are able to receive free meals and restaurant owners can even take a tax write-off for their donation. For more EPA waste data, head to the EPA’s website.