Food waste management

In a nutshell

This tool helps to avoid food waste in catering services by taking an overall view of the public meal provision process, learning about the reasons for waste, and then eliminating them. Cuts to waste generation can be made at many points of the process, and can be achieved collaboratively, as large organisations typically employ different people to procure food, cook and prepare meals, and serve it to customers. The benefits of preventing food waste include cost and labour savings, as well as the decrease of environmental impacts along the whole food chain. Food waste reduction helps in the action against climate change in particular by decreasing greenhouse gases produced from decomposing biomass; an important component of EU climate policies.

Necessary Steps

  • The potential for food waste ranges across the procurement, storage, manufacturing, and serving phases, and it is largely affected by menu planning and customer numbers.
  • It is important to estimate the number of customers as accurately as possible, based on previous estimates or sources of reliable information.
  • Taking customer preferences into account during menu planning helps to reduce waste.
  • Procured food items may change and smaller volumes may bring savings.
  • Food stores are monitored for expiry dates to avoid food waste.
  • Standard recipes, weighed ingredients, and customised cooking/ manufacturing methods are used to ensure meal quality, helping to mitigate waste issues.
  • Food consumption at the customer interface is monitored and only sufficient volumes are brought to the serving line.
  • If meals are portioned for customers, the appropriate volumes are served according to nutritional recommendations and individual requests (preferably by pictorial guides).
  • If possible, food not yet brought to serving (i.e. extra helpings) can be kept aside or moved to cold storage in the kitchen in due time; the hygienic quality is preserved.
  • If there is still left-over food at the end of the meal, a sale or donation can be organised.
  • To see how the prevention measures are working, food waste needs to be measured, followed-up, and reported on periodically according to plan (Measuring food waste in school canteens, Three ways to measure food waste).

More Issues To Consider

  • Customers may need some time to get acquainted with new menus (e.g. ones that offer more plant-based meals), which will have an impact on the amount of time it will take to reduce food waste.
  • Communicating to customers the importance of the responsible consumption of food, both in self-service and portioning service canteens, and about progress in waste prevention is important.
  • Food waste measurement and results can be used as part of this communication effort.

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