Shirley Duncalf, Head of Sustainable Development at Bidfood Looks at How to Tackle Food Waste Head On

“Food waste is a problem weighing heavy on the shoulders of the industry. The G20 reports that an estimated 1.3bn tonnes of food, or roughly 30% of global production, is lost or wasted worldwide annually. Within foodservice, WRAP figures show that 18% of all food purchased in the hospitality sector is still wasted, and three quarters of this is food that could have been eaten.

“The industry is increasingly putting the issue in the spotlight. For example, The Felix Project, a charity which collects unused food from retailers and creates meals for the vulnerable, and ‘zero waste’ restaurants such the Real Junk Food Project, the chain of not-for-profit food waste cafés are both waging war on food waste with a social conscience.

“Often initiatives look to expose the amount of wastage in the food chain and draw attention to the global scandal of food waste. However shocking headlines and alarming statistics run the risk of doing little to help businesses rise to the challenge and help reduce waste.

Small steps can make a big difference

“I’d encourage operators to sign up to the Hospitality and Foodservice Agreement, an ambitious three-year voluntary agreement developed by WRAP. To date it has received support from 230 leading organisations and resulted in 24,000 tonnes of food being saved from being thrown away (or 48 million meals) and the redistribution of surplus food doubled to 760 tonnes.

“While the task ahead might be daunting, as chefs it’s about making small changes to affect big change.

BOX OUT: Seven Steps for reducing food waste:

  1. Reduce the size of your menu to avoid unnecessary surplus
  2. Track and analyse what food and produce is being thrown away and conduct detailed inventories so you can order more effectively
  3. Carefully review what’s coming back to the kitchen and review portion size if necessary. Using smaller plates or stacking meals will help dishes appear larger or more eye catching.
  4. Put someone in charge of driving change in the business but equally, educate your staff and work with them to improve efficiencies
  5. High quality kitchen equipment can help limit wastage, for example, high quality knives for the peeling of fruits and vegetables or knives for filleting and cutting meat or fish.
  6. Effective fridge rotation is very important to limiting food waste. Ensure all staff are using the same system with the food that needs to be used first stored in the front, or by employing a “right to left rule” where new produce is always stored on the right side and moved along
  7. Recycle everything what can be recycled – it’s simple but can be forgotten in the heat of a busy kitchen

“As an organisation, we’re also implementing small initiatives to help inspire the sector. We’re giving surplus food to local communities, donating split sugar bags from our depots to local beekeepers as part of a campaign to back British bees, and signing up the Courtauld 2025, a voluntary agreement that brings together organisations to make food and drink production more sustainable.

“Accounting for food waste might not be the most glamorous part about being a chef, but with figures from WRAP showing that 1 in 6 meals served in hospitality are still going to waste, it’s clear that as an industry, more needs to be done and passionate chefs have a vital role to play.