By Claire Cummings, Waste Specialist for Bon Appétit Management Company
Wasted food in our industry is rarely a good thing: it means all the time and resources that went into growing, distributing, and cooking that food are squandered. It often means that food is going to a landfill, where it decomposes and emits methane, the greenhouse gas 20-25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. And let’s not forget, wasted food almost always means wasted money!
Despite all the problems associated with waste, I am happy to share that my employer, Bon Appétit Management Company, has found a way to turn our waste into something positive for our food-service operations and for our community. More than 70 of our kitchens at colleges, universities, and corporations around the country are taking leftover, edible food that would otherwise get tossed out, and donating it to people in need on a regular basis – a process known as food recovery.
We at Bon Appétit probably shared many of the same concerns you did upon first hearing about food recovery:
- But isn’t liability an issue? Nope, not if the food is donated safely. See the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 for more info.
- But do we even have enough food to donate? Yes, it is simply the nature of our industry. We can’t be certain how many people are coming in and what they are going to eat every day. Even small servings recovered, day after day, add up to a lot of food over time.
- But doesn’t that take a lot of staff time and energy? Not when you work with great partners like the Food Recovery Network!
There are many common misconceptions about food recovery, but rest assured that it can be done, it is easy to do, and it is completely worth the minimal time and energy it takes to donate.
It is hard not to love this simple solution to waste and hunger issues in our community, and our guests couldn’t be more thrilled to see us donate. That is why when the Food Recovery Network asked us to be the first food service company to pilot their Food Recovery Certification, a new certification to recognize businesses that are regularly donating food, we didn’t hesitate to jump on board. The certification process is easy to do, and the rewards are significant.
Our first cafés that have gone through the certification process have passed with flying colors and our chefs are already getting positive feedback from their guests:
“Our customers care about their community and the environment, and they want to know that we care, too. Bon Appétit cafes have increasingly been donating our surplus food to hungry people. Food Recovery Certified is helping us communicate this to our customers in a compelling way,” says Craig Hetherington, Bon Appétit Executive Chef at the Seattle Art Museum’s TASTE restaurant.
It is hard to imagine something more universally hated than waste; it is just so painful to see good food getting thrown out, especially when there is such a need (about 1 in 6 Americans is food insecure). So for all you chefs out there: we encourage you to start a food recovery program, donate, get certified, and turn this universally hated problem into a win for your restaurant and your community!