Blue Hill - Greenwich Village, NYC.

Did you know that 40% of the food in the United State is thrown away each year? Or that 1 in 6 Americans are experiencing food insecurity right now? If we could reduce food waste by 15%, that would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year.

Oftentimes, food is thrown away simply due to physical and aesthetic appearances that in no way affect the actual quality of the food. The focus on food’s physical appearance begins at the farm and continues all the way through the food chain. At supermarkets, consumers pick the prettiest produce, and the blemished produce often lands in the garbage.

Food waste is an issue that needs to be addressed. Fortunately, it’s finally getting attention by more than just social and environmental activists. Food waste experiments are popping up around the world – many in the United States.

Average citizens are being granted access to local food excess in many areas to prevent food waste.

  • PareUp is one app that allows you to buy food from retailers that would otherwise throw away food for a reduced price.
  • CropMobster is a website that allows people in Northern California to share information about local food excess and sell those goods through an online marketplace.
  • Even big newspapers like the LA Times are printing recipes on how to use food waste.

Restaurants are one huge source of food waste. A 2005 study performed by the University of Arizona estimated the total amount of food loss per day in full-service restaurants in the United States was nearly 50 million pounds. In fast food restaurants, that number topped 85 million pounds daily. The loss occurs before the food reaches our plates, and then again when we don’t finish our meals or take home our leftovers to finish later.

Some restaurants are seeking to change this wasteful trend into a more sustainable one. From short term experiments to long-term foundations, these innovative restaurants and markets are working to take a bite out of food waste.

wastED takes a 3-week challenge

For 3 weeks, Blue Hill restaurant in Greenwich Village temporarily reinvented itself as wastED, a pop-up devoted to the theme of food waste and re-use. During this time, wastED collaborated with local fishermen, farmers, plant breeders, producers, processors, distributors, restaurants and retailers, reconceiving “waste” that occurs at each link in the food chain.

Blue Hill - Greenwich Village, NYC.
Blue Hill Restaurant – Greenwich Village, NYC. Image courtesy of Edmund White.

In the short 3-week experiment, they made 10,000 wastED dishes that used:

  • 600 pounds of ugly vegetables
  • 150 pounds of kale ribs
  • 30 gallons of beef tallow
  • 475 pounds of skate cartilage
  • 350 pounds of vegetable pulp
  • 900 pounds of waste-fed pigs

Imagine what a difference that could make if wastED operated full time? So much waste could be eliminated in the food supply.

Daily Table embraces food waste

Founded by Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, Massachusetts-based Daily Table is a not-for-profit retail store that offers a variety of tasty, convenient and affordable foods to everyone in the community. Daily Table also offers prepared foods made from ingredients that would otherwise have been wasted, such as fruit that has been blemished and foods that are only one day past their sell-by date.

They offer great values by working with a large network of growers, manufacturers, supermarkets and other suppliers who donate their excess, healthy food to Daily Table, or provide them with special buying opportunities.

LocoL plans to revolutionize fast food

Recognizing that fast food isn’t going away anytime soon, professional chefs Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi decided it’s time for someone to revolutionize fast food. They plan to open a chain of restaurants that are inexpensive and serve delicious food made with real ingredients. The first two locations will be in LA Watts and San Francisco Tenderloin.

While LocoL doesn’t plan to use actual food waste to make their meals, they do plan to follow a zero waste model. When interviewed for a Yahoo story, Choi said, “Everything we buy, we use, and the things we use are going to be things we can shred, chop, braise, cook down, pickle, peel and turn into something else. We’ll transform bruised, misshapen vegetables into purées and sauces. We’ll buy off-cuts of meat and make them work.”

LocoL’s Indiegogo campaign was fully funded, and they are currently in the research and development phase. They plan to open their first location by the end of 2015.

Would you support a restaurant that was serving food waste?

Feature image courtesy of Edmund White 

By Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal Johnson, publisher of Happy Mothering, founder of Green Moms Media and essential oil fanatic, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former corporate marketing communication manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life.