Troubled by the amount of locally grown, picked-over peaches headed for the landfill, the Food Bank of South Jersey, the agricultural community of New Jersey and the Campbell Soup Company collaborated to turn unnecessary waste into a sweet seasonal partnership that in its fourth year this summer produced close to 60,000 jars of fruit salsa.
In Campbell’s pilot plant, thousands of undersized or blemished peaches are diced up, bottled up in Just Peachy! packaging and given back to the Food Bank to sell at local farmers’ markets and stores.
“They generate about $100,000 a year that then they can put into programming and hunger relief,” says Dave Stangis, chief sustainability officer at Campbell’s. “It's a great story all the way around. It's got a sustainability story and an employee engagement story, a community story, and a social entrepreneurship story.”
This creative food rescue story is just one of the case studies, creative solutions and emerging practices featured in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance’s (FWRA) second annual Best Practices and Emerging Solutions guide released last week.
The 25-page guide is designed to offer strategies food manufacturers, retailers and restaurant and foodservice operators can implement to keep food out of landfills and to reduce food waste at the source, says Meghan Stasz, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) senior director of sustainability.
“It's really written by companies for companies to either get started in a food waste diversion or food donation program or make those programs even stronger,” Stasz says. “We developed the guide to give companies the tools that they needed to directly address those barriers that they identified as keeping their programs from taking them to the next level.”
Launched in 2011, the FWRA is a cross-sector industry initiative led by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the GMA and the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The organization is doing its part to make an impact on the approximately 80 billion pounds of food waste is discarded in U.S. landfills each year.
The main takeaway from the guide? “No matter the size of the business, you can start somewhere,” Stasz says. “Companies of all types and all sizes are getting involved and making a real impact in food waste reduction and food donation. It doesn't matter if you're a small restaurant or a major multinational food manufacturer, if you empower your employees to look at your operations you can really make a difference.”
The number one best practice is measuring food waste. It’s the old business adage of, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure."
"When you start measuring you see real areas of opportunity right away," Stasz says.
The guide also shares industry successes and suggestions around how to overcome potential food donation obstacles such as liability issues, transportation constraints and insufficient storage and refrigeration at food banks. It also highlights ways to recycle food waste such as recovering energy from food waste materials and redirection of organic materials.
“Waste recycling and reduction have been part of our sustainability strategy for many years now,” Stangis says. “Our average recycling rate has been close to 90 percent in our food manufacturing plants and then we continue to look for other opportunities to drive waste reduction through donation. The reality is we all have to be fairly creative…and we definitely need to look outside of our four walls.”
Stasz says she is hopeful the national attention following the announcement of USDA and EPA’s first-ever national food waste reduction goals will help drive infrastructure and development of food waste recycling infrastructure.
“Very frequently when food waste winds up in landfill it's because there's nowhere else to send it,” she says.