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How analyzing carbon footprints can help reduce foodservice waste

New guidelines help foodservice managers reduce food waste, save money and feed more for less.

New Food-Ordering Formula Could Lead to Less Food Waste in Buffet-Style Restaurants from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.

You’ve likely heard the scary food waste stat that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is ultimately wasted, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. While this waste is generated throughout the entire supply chain, including at the farm and at the home, the food service industry also discards a vast amount of uneaten food. Some of the worst culprits? Buffets.

But not all food waste is created equal. There’s an incredibly large disparity in the amount of resources—time, labor, water, fossil fuels, land—in producing something like beef ravioli versus French fries. Researchers from the University of Missouri set out to mitigate food waste by identifying these nuances in food production and, importantly, developing actionable guidelines for managers of all-you-can-eat buffets (such as campus dining halls, restaurants and cafes) to help reduce food waste.

“Most research on food waste at the consumption phase has focused on institutions such as schools and hospitals rather than on individual households,” says Ronald G. McGarvey, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering and public affairs at M.U., in a statement. “With this new research, we have developed a formula that foodservice managers can use when deciding how to store, prepare and serve food. We anticipate that using this new formula could considerably reduce food waste on college campuses and in other all-you-care-to-eat facilities.”

For example, the researchers found that 39 times more carbon is emitted while manufacturing beef ravioli than French fries. “Farm equipment used to feed and maintain livestock and to plant and harvest crops uses a lot of diesel fuel and other utilities from fossil fuels,” McGarvey continues. “When people waste food, these fuels, as well as fertilizers, also are wasted.”

Check out this video to learn more about M.U.’s research, and how you can apply smart foodservice management in your store’s café or grab-and-go section to help reduce food waste.

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