Redefining ‘Reduce’

Small bone to pick here: Several times a week I get excited by headlines like this one: Darden Restaurants Working to Reduce Food Waste.

I leap into the story, looking for confirmation that a restaurant is actually trimming the amount of food waste their kitchen and/or customers are creating. Almost invariably, I realize that they’re not doing anything of the sort. They’re either donating food, feeding it to livestock or composting it.

Don’t get me wrong–what those Darden restaurants are doing is great. Getting those food scraps to livestock–via Organic Matters–is a progressive move. But given the EPA food waste hierarchy, it’s not nearly the best step. And it’s certainly not reducing waste.

The really sad part is that most restaurants could tackle both food waste and obesity by shrinking portion sizes.  And these restaurants–Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster–could certainly do with smaller portions. That’s why it’s especially disappointing to learn that there are no actual waste reduction efforts. (There are other ways restaurants could trim food waste.)

But it’s a step in the right direction. And we’ll eventually realize that minimizing food waste is the most important step toward a healthier society and environment.

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