nrdc.org – Converting surplus food to value-added food products
Drexel University Food Lab
STRATEGY IN A NUTSHELL
Designing low-cost, easy recipes to add value to surplus supermarket food to feed people; create a profitable microenterprise model and create jobs
Brown’s Super Stores, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cabrini University
TYPE OF FOOD
Unsold supermarket food, focusing on produce and bakery items
Standard commercial kitchen equipment
AVAILABLE LOCAL PRODUCE IDENTIFIED FOR REPURPOSING
35,000 pounds per month from 11 Philadelphia-based supermarkets
The Challenge and Opportunity
Each year, more than 10 percent of retail food—a total of about 43 billion pounds—goes unsold across the United States.1 The vast majority of retail food loss consists of perishable items, such as baked goods, produce, meat, seafood, and prepared foods. Supermarkets lose approximately $15 billion each year in unsold fruits and vegetables alone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).2 In total, $218 billion worth of food is wasted in the United States each year, the majority of which is discarded by grocery stores, restaurants, food-service companies, or individuals at home.
Grocery retailers and food wholesalers have historically viewed food waste as an unavoidable part of doing business or even as an indicator that a store is meeting quality control and full-shelf standards. Retailers generally encourage store clerks to remove blemished items and fully stock shelves at all times.3
“The reality as a regional grocery manager is, if you see a store that has really low waste in its perishables, you are worried,” says a former president of Trader Joe’s. “If a store has low waste numbers, it can be a sign that they aren’t fully in stock and that the customer experience is suffering.”4
The USDA estimates that in 2010, retail-level losses represented 10 percent of the available food supply, including 12 percent for fresh fruit and 10 percent for fresh vegetables.5 However, losses vary for individual crops from year to year. In 2005 and 2006, losses varied from 0.06 percent for sweet corn to as high as 63 percent for mustard greens.6
Some interesting stuff in that article.