Chefs, grocers and food manufacturers reveal ways to reduce food waste

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Chefs, grocers and food manufacturers reveal ways to reduce food waste
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Chefs, grocers and food manufacturers set good examples for consumers to reduce food waste.

COMPTON, Calif. (KABC) -- San Francisco mandates citizens to compost. Seattle fines theirs if they don't. While Los Angeles does neither, many want to help reduce the over 60 million tons of food in U.S. landfills.

One retailer setting an example: Kroger companies Ralphs and Food 4 Less who use the first anaerobic digester in America.

"Any food that can't be donated or sold at the store comes back to this facility and we take it through an anaerobic digester, which then turns into about 20 percent of the energy for this 49-acre campus," said Kendra Doyle, public relations director of Ralphs and Food 4 Less.

About 150 tons of food and packaging per day is processed through this system, separating organic from non-organic waste for use. Even their onsite creamery creates dairy waste water that's used in the system as well.

"Ninety percent of what goes into this system is converted into energy, and taking the 20 percent of that energy use that we were, off the grid," said Doyle.

And it's not just something that's important to grocery stores.

The National Restaurant Association says chefs rank reducing food waste as 9th in the top 20 food trends of 2015.

Most restaurants buy local and they also compost, and then it's time to get creative with food. At Stir Market in L.A., they've come up with a 'trash veggie' salad.

"We incorporate the beet greens, the top of the beets, and we reserve our parsnip peelings, our carrot peelings, again just a little olive oil, (then) toast it in the oven," said executive chef for Stir Market, Chris Barnett.

Leaves and stalks of celery and beets are for salads and juicing. Barnett says they literally use the entire vegetable from root to stalk.

Nik Ingersoll, co-founder and CMO of Barnana, says 20 percent of waste happens at the farm when bananas bruise while growing and can't be used. So his company 'up-cycle's' them -- turning them into dehydrated banana snacks.

"We've bought more than a couple million bananas and this year we are looking to grow 300 percent," said Ingersoll.

Still, it's consumers that have a lot of work to do.

"The average family throws out a quarter of the food that we buy," said dietitian Dawn Undurraga of the Environmental Working Group.

That amounts to about 250 pounds per person, so what can you do?

- Plan your meals.

- Don't over buy.

- Take stock of what you have in the pantry and refrigerator before heading to the market.

And while most worry about produce spoilage know this...

"Forty percent of the fish we buy and a third of the turkey goes right into the trash," said Undurraga.