Chefs and firms on the front line against food waste

Chefs and firms on the front line against food waste

February 14, 2019

Chefs and firms on the front line against food waste

We can minimize food waste across a varied range of firms with the right corporate strategies and the support of technology, perhaps with a little help form chefs who support sustainability.

Food is too important to be wasted and technology can transform the way we use food. These were the words of Marc Zornes, speaking at the ninth edition of the International Forum on Food and Nutrition organized by BCFN in Milan. They are also written on the home page of Winnow, the company founded by Zornes with the mission of helping firms reduce food waste. “If wasted or lost food were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas producer in the world” explained the expert. He offered a practical overview of food waste, underlining that a third of food produced today is wasted or not used for reasons that change enormously with the different contexts. While this problem is huge, the Milan meeting highlighted that goodwill and technology can make the difference and lead to impressive results in the reduction of food waste. “Since they are the ambassadors of good food as well as 'practical' people, chefs can really help ensure everyone gets the message” echoed Mitchell Davis, from New York's James Beard Foundation, who is committed to several project on good food and sustainability.


Cruising towards sustainability and zero waste 

On its own, theory is not enough. Businesses need to show that reducing food waste is not only possible, but also profitable for a company. Following the success of the Winnow system, Zornes was able to demonstrate this with practical examples from large companies. “The Winnow system is an IT platform that allows real time recording of how much and what food gets wasted or lost” he explained, adding that “This system, together with good awareness and care, enables kitchens to halve the cost of food waste, which usually amounts to thousands of dollars every year”. For example, in 2018 Costa Cruises presented its “4goodfood” program, through which the company plans to halve food waste on its fleet of ships by 2020. This ambitious objective is perfectly aligned with the United Nations Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and offers ground for good hopes. Between February and November 2017, the project was piloted on the company's Costa Diadema flagship, and it resulted in a 54% food waste reduction. Moving away from the sea and into the land, there are other examples of companies that embraced the zero waste objective on the road to sustainability. IKEA aims to reduce food waste by 50% by 2020, Accor Hotels aims for 30% by 2021 and on goes the virtuous company list.

Give the chefs the floor

James Beard (1903-1985), named 'the champion of American cuisine' by the New York Times used to say that “if we really believe in food, we need to do something to show it and to make sure that our voice is heard above the rest”. This is the spirit of the James Beard Foundation, which has the objective, among others,  to make American cuisine more pleasant, varied and sustainable for all, also working to reduce food waste. “A decade ago, riding the wave of growing food enthusiasm in the USA, we discovered that we could contribute not only to improve tastes and cooking, but also sustainability” explained Davis, recalling that in countries like the United States, nearly 50% of the food industry expenditure is about restaurants, which account for nearly 780 billion dollars. These data are one of the reasons the “Chefs' manifesto” was created: a practical action plan that puts at its core specific, sustainable choices. For example, using seasonal ingredients grown with environmentally friendly practices, caring for biodiversity and animal welfare, promoting information about safe and healthy food. “Chefs have the opportunity – and perhaps the obligation as well– to explain to everyone what is good to eat and why” said Davis, quoting Danish chef René Redzepi.

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