This past summer Sustainable Connections hosted a workshop to educate restaurants and food-based businesses about ways they can reduce the amount of wasted food in their operations. One of the biggest myths we are working to overcome is that everything is hunky dory as long as we compost our wasted food. The facts remain that five times more greenhouse gases are emitted just getting food to our tables than are emitted on the disposal side of things. Therefore, if we are really going to make real progress in regards to wasted food, and recycling in general, we must have a renewed focus on reduction, and not use recycling as a crutch to continue on the same old course.
After the workshop, there was as lively discussion, ideas shared about what could be done differently, and then it was serendipity. In the face of the reality that 1 in 5 kids in Washington state lives in a household that struggles to put food on the table, there had to be an opportunity. Before you know it, plans were being hatched about how we as a community can divert perfectly edible food from the compost bin or worse the landfill–into the bellies of people who need a hot meal.
For many of the years I have been in the Toward Zero Waste realm I have always been saddened to see the vast amount of edible food discarded at restaurants, schools, campuses of all sorts, and events. For many, the writing has been on the wall, and finding a way to recover and redistribute highly perishable food items such as prepared foods in deli cases or unserved plated meals at banquets is the big gap in the Toward Zero Waste spectrum.
This is where we come back to serendipity. By happy happenstance, three people in a room sharing similar concerns was the catalyst for Sustainable Connections to seriously explore our role and opportunity to help bridge the gap between commercial entities, food recovery, and food redistribution. Armed with a new sense of purpose, we put our pens to the paper and tapped out the keystrokes that ultimately led to a successful grant application to the Washington State Department of Ecology.
We are pleased to announce a very important addition to our Toward Zero Waste campaign. The Food Redistribution Initiative (FRI) will drastically reduce food waste generated by restaurants and events in our community by redistributing unclaimed food to those in need of hot meals. Additionally, we will develop an app that allows businesses in the food industry to contact hot meal distribution organizations so the food redistribution can continue after the initial 2 year pilot. A complementary educational campaign for both businesses and the public will launch when FRI begins.
By the end of the grant period, our goal is to have 30 businesses and 8 events donating food to four recipient organizations. We estimate that this will redistribute 30,000 meals or nearly 50,000 pounds of food waste per year, keeping it out of the landfill, and feeding community members in need. Stay tuned in the coming months as we share our progress and ways you can get involved. We are beyond excited to bring this initiative to our community and we look forward to businesses, fellow non-profits, and our community helping to make it a huge success!