Put food rescue on the menu!

Every year, more than $7 billion worth of food is wasted at hotels, restaurants, and institutions – that’s about 13% of all food loss and waste in Canada. Here are two of the biggest out-of-home food waste culprits and some tips for stopping them in their tracks.

Plate Waste

Food left on your plate in a restaurant is known in the industry as, no surprise, “plate waste” and it has to be thrown out – yes, even your untouched side salad that was served on its own plate, and probably that full bread basket and the leftover charcuterie. Plate waste is particularly an issue at buffets where both staff and diners can create it, for example, staff over-prepare food to give the impression of variety and abundance, and diners fill their plates with more than they can eat to get more “value”.

Two plates of food in a restaurant

Stopping plate waste: tips for diners

  • At the buffet take smaller portions and go back when your plate is empty – that makes sense, right?
  • Not feeling hungry? Try modifying your order: for example, ask for a two-egg omelette, even if three eggs are what’s on the menu (and be prepared to still pay full price because that’s the classy thing to do).
  • Take your leftovers home: you will want that yummy pasta for lunch – and if you live with a teenager, odds are the pasta won’t last the night anyway.

And speaking of teenagers…

Students Having Lunch with FriendsFood waste is a problem at institutions like colleges and universities, too, since many have buffets and deal with fluctuating numbers of students at any given meal. While some campuses are looking at composting programs as a way of managing organic waste in the dining hall, reducing food waste at its source can be a better choice.

Here’s what some campuses have tried to minimize waste:

  • Loyola University Chicago found that a combination of getting rid of trays and reducing plate sizes makes about a 25 percent reduction in food waste.
  • Having fewer options in the buffet can reduce waste in and out of the kitchen.
  • Roger Williams University trains kitchen staff to use and re-purpose as much of the meals’ ingredients as possible as well as properly cooling and storing food so it can be re-used.

Want to start a food revolution?

Want to get your favourite bistro or campus dining hall to take a stand against food waste?

  • Spread the word about FoodRescue.ca: this online platform enables food businesses of any type to donate uneaten food directly to local nonprofits.
  • Back it up with facts: download Second Harvest’s groundbreaking research, The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste at SecondHarvest.ca/Research. There are more than 100 strategies for food waste reduction and mind-blowing stats.
  • Share it on social: Instagramming your avocado toast is such a cliché – why not start a food rescue revolution instead? Show how much you loved your leftovers and tag the restaurant. Or start a trayless dining challenge to see how your dining hall habits are influenced for the better when you can’t load a tray with impulse food… then challenge your followers. C’est #TrayBien.