A statewide campaign launched this week to help businesses reduce the amount of food they throw away.
The educational initiative, called Food Waste Stops With Me, is a partnership between Metro, the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and several local governments. It’s part of a larger effort around food waste that may also include requiring some businesses to keep the food they toss out of the garbage. Metro Council is expected to vote on a proposed policy in July.
A primary intention behind that proposal is to reduce the climate impacts of trash. Once food is dumped in a landfill it rots and generates methane, a powerful contributor to climate change that is at least 24 times as potent as carbon dioxide.
Food scraps get a second chance
You may have whipped up a dinner made from random leftovers. But what about ice cream?
Leftovers are the star ingredients in Second-Run Swirl, an ice cream made by Portland’s Ruby Jewel. On a recent morning, founder Lisa Herlinger chops up chocolate cake pieces, pecan toffee, candied almonds, peanut butter crispy crunch and other morsels – all extras from batches of other flavors.
Herlinger says that reducing waste is central to the company’s philosophy. Broken cookies are worked into ice cream flavors. Imperfect ice cream sandwiches are used as samples at grocery stores or sent home with employees. Seasonal flavors being transitioned out of stores are donated to food rescue organizations.
The process to make Second-Run Swirl starts with a mixture of organic milk, sugar and butter in a large tub. Then Herlinger blends in caramel sauce with a giant wand. It then goes into the ice cream spinner to be chilled and aerated. Once the ice cream is ready, she stirs in a dollop of marshmallow fluff and those “second-run” morsels.
Finally, she scoops the ice cream into small serving cups and reaches for one final touch: A cherry on top.
Get a sample of Second-Run Swirl at Metro’s exhibit at the Northwest Food Show and see other innovative ways to prevent food waste.
But in conjunction with addressing the food that’s thrown away, says Pam Peck, resource conservation and recycling manager at Metro, “it’s also important to maximize prevention and donation activities.”
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association opposes Metro’s proposed mandate to separate food scraps. “We believe that composting is only one piece of the puzzle,” says Marla McColly, the association’s director of business development. “Proper training will impact food waste before it hits the trash.”
McColly points out that food waste directly impacts a business’s bottom line. Profit margins in the food service business are generally at 3 to 5 percent, she says, and business owners across the state look to ORLA for training in preventing food waste.
Wasted Food Wasted Money, a resource guide from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, states that up to 63 million tons of food are wasted each year in the U.S. at an estimated cost to businesses of more than $50 billion. At the same time, many Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from. According to the Oregon Food Bank, one in five Oregonians lacks reliable access to nutritious food.
In addition to making sure edible food gets eaten, there is also the question of what Elaine Blatt, senior policy and program analyst at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, calls “the upstream environmental impacts of food waste” — that is, all the greenhouse gases produced and land and water used in growing, transporting and packaging food that never gets eaten.
Metro’s website will be the portal for Food Waste Stops With Me resources such as webinars, podcasts and case studies in three main categories: prevention, donation and composting. Topics will be broken down to address different parts of the business food cycle – things like purchasing, menu planning, storage, food prep, staff training and inventory management.
“We’re excited to be working with (the restaurant and lodging association and the department of environmental quality) on co-creating relevant resources to help businesses do things like a food waste audit, for example,” says Peck. A waste audit offers ways to track and measure loss to figure out whether food is lost to spoilage, during prep, left on customer’s plates or to the landfill.
Peck adds that working with the restaurant association helps Metro gain insights into different circumstances at different businesses and is a unique opportunity to “work with food industry leaders who clearly care about reducing food waste. Their insights, knowledge and trusted channels to the industry are invaluable.”
The Food Waste Stops With Me campaign kicks off on Sunday at the Northwest Food Show at Portland Expo Center. There, visitors will be able to sample the latest ice cream flavor from Portland’s Ruby Jewel. To make it, founder Lisa Herlinger mixed in ingredients left over from previous flavors — candied almonds, peanut butter crispy crunch, blondies and chocolate cake — to a base of salted- caramel ice cream. Its name? Second-Run Swirl.