Stop Food Waste

food waste

Selma Seddik rescues food from supermarkets and puts it up for adoption at her brand new restaurant. Delicious adoption.

In 2014 the European Parliament called for action to halve food waste by 2025. More than one third of all food in the world is wasted. Considering we need to feed more people in the future with fewer resources it really is time to take action. There are various ways to approach this issue. We see that politicians, farmers, producers, retailers, small entrepreneurs and civilians start various anti-food waste campaigns or initiatives. Still the question remains; how can actors in the food chain efficiently cooperate to accelerate the battle against food waste? In this article we will have a look at Restaurant Instock; the first restaurant in the Netherlands where the chefs cook with the food surplus from Albert Heijn and its strategic partners.

Facts on food waste

As stated above, more than one third of all food in the world is wasted. A study by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) shows that on an annual basis 1.3 billion tons of food are lost worldwide. Food waste creates multiple negative externalities. It annually costs 4.4 billion euro in the Netherlands. Three quarters of Dutch land surface could be won back from farming with a food waste reduction of 40 percent in Europe. Moreover, the energy  spent on packaging, transporting, cooling and preparing the food is also wasted.

If we take a closer look at who is responsible for the waste in the food chain food, we see the following: 5 percent is wasted by supermarkets, 14 percents by restaurants and hotels, 39 percent by farmers and producers and the largest amount, of 42 percent, by us, the consumers.

Current initiatives

Innovations against food waste occur constantly in the food chain. Farmers are working on methods to reduce yield loss. The government is trying to create more awareness around expiration dates. Producers and supermarkets are constantly innovating their packaging to increase the product life.

Besides these measures, there is big trend of grass root initiatives such as  Kromkommer in the Netherlands. They use the yields from farmers that they cannot sell in the regular channels and produce products such as soup. Another initiative is Damn Food Waste; they managed to prepare a lunch for five thousand people on Museum Square in Amsterdam. Their goal is to create more awareness among consumers on the scale of the problem. Kliek&CO is an initiative focussed on changing customer behavior. And last but not least, Instock; the first restaurant in the Netherlands which cooks with the surplus from the food chain.

Instock

Merel Laarman, Bart Roetert,Freke van Nimwegen and I started our careers at Ahold, the largest retailer in the Netherlands. We shared a common interest in the theme of food waste. And while we worked in an Albert Heijn store we were confronted with the issue of food waste on a daily basis. The following chart shows the proportional distribution of food waste in the food chain.

Even though supermarkets only contribute for five percent of the overall amount waste, they can influence their suppliers and customers. We joined an innovation competition at Ahold called ‘the Best Idea of Young Ahold’ and won. This equipped us with the funds to start the Instock foundation of which the pop-up restaurant on the Westergasterrein in Amsterdam is our first project. The goal of the foundation is to stop food waste and create more awareness around the issue.

At Instock the chefs cook the meals with the ‘yield of the day’. The menu is different every day. The food is collected from different Albert Heijns in Amsterdam in the electrical rescue car. From the stores, the chefs can use fruits, vegetables and bread. With the choice of these products Instock avoids legal issues concerning expiration dates. Bread has has a packaging date and customers often times choose the nicer looking fruits and vegetables, leaving the others becoming waste. Meat comes from the suppliers of Albert Heijn. In the case where  production does not exactly meet the forecasts a small percentage of overproduction can be used in the restaurant.

Cooperation

There are various NGO’s that are concerned with the food waste topic.  For example, the Youth Food Movement (YFM), this organisation for young people from the argo-food sector yearly organises an academy where 25 people from the sector meet to learn more about our food system. FUSIONS (Food Use For Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention Strategies) a European project funded by the European Commision. They are establishing a multi-stakeholder platform and can provide funds. Or the European Food Waste Entrepreneurs, a platform specifically focussed on food waste issues from an entrepreneurial view. These NGO’s can help change public opinion,  help people learn from the best practices,  change the level playing field of large corporations.