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Reduce Hunger by Reducing Waste

What can we do to prevent food from catering, events, food stylists, grocery stores, etc. from going into the trash and get it to people who need it?

Photo of Anne Ditmeyer
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Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio's book "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" documents what families around the world through beautiful imagery that tells a powerful story (as seen here:,29307,1626519,00.html. A recent Twitter conversation with Amsterdam-based stylist Pia Jane Bijkerk [@piajanebijkerk] got me re-thinking about the question about what we don't eat, but throw away.

In an interview Pia did with the blog Conserve Delhi, she reflected about being a stylist and how it can be a wasteful industry, and how she turns to the handmade and upcycling in her own style. She noted that food styling can be the most wasteful of all, and wished there was sort of food salvage program: "an organisation that has a schedule of food shoots around the city and goes to each shoot at the end of the day and picks up the excess food – food that is still edible would be taken to shelters, and the rest would be composted and made into soil that local people can purchase, or that is used for city gardens."

This made me think to my own experience and frustrations when I worked in catering during college - both for a big corporation, as well with a local vendor. What killed me most was that at the end of an event, while we were allowed to have a meal, we were not allowed to take food home (especially with the corporate company tied to the university). What wasn't eaten had to go into the trash (we once even threw out an entire large trash can of perfectly good, untouched cookies). It was particularly heartbreaking as the majority of people I was working with were low-income single parents with other issues to juggle - the food had a viable place to go without any other intermediaries. I brought up the issue with the management on multiple occasions, yet bureaucratic practices, liability and health code always got in the way. I couldn't help thing that a homeless person would gladly sign a waiver not faulting the company if it meant that they got to eat a meal.

Ironically this issue of waste of food is more prevalent in the developed world - I saw it in the US, Pia in Europe - rather than the developing world. It seems to me we could save money, sanity and peace of mind if we could find a viable solution to food waste.

Unfortunately, I have not seen any solutions where I live, but the interview mentions two services in Melbourne that provide excess food collection: Second Bite and Fare Share . Both look like great examples, and the author asks if programs like this exist elsewhere in the world. Does anyone know of any?

What needs or issues does it address?
Cuts down waste and feeds those who cannot afford food.


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Photo of Liz

There are a number of great organizations in the US that do food rescue of this sort, and having worked with a few of them, especially on campuses, it's really interesting to see how food vendors often don't know how much they are wasting until they are packing it up to donate. Just by seeing the quantity of food that went into packages, to the vans and off to homeless shelters, the vendor changed their kitchen strategy and dramatically reduced food waste. Eventually, they not only changed the amount of food they were providing, but also started a program to improve up-front preparation waste.

I think this could be applicable in a lot of different areas, not just food — seeing the waste up front, rather than gradually as it's sloughed off into black trash bags can help emphasize a need for a change. When the disparity is more obvious, people are motivated to make a change in their personal behavior.

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