A must read with a link to our research!

I read several excellent books this summer but one in particular  really caused me to pause and think…. in fact I have a feeling I will look back in several years and say it changed my life!   Jonathan Bloom’s American Wasteland is an informative and well written book chronicling our societies propensity to waste food.  Bloom spent two years researching and writing this effort that looks at waste throughout all areas of our food system.  Each chapter in Bloom’s book covers a different area of the food system and he spends considerable time presenting his findings on such topics as farm production waste and retail grocery store waste, he also has an excellent chapter on restaurant generated food waste.  But perhaps the most endearing quality of this book is the consistent message he sends on how we have created a culture where waste is acceptable.  He drives this home with a memorable chapter on ‘refrigerator waste’, something I’m sure we can all relate to. In fact, the morning after I read this chapter I cleaned my fridge out and this is where I had my own little personal epiphany!  Several months later and my family and I have totally altered the way we purchase, prepare and store food.  I estimate that we have lowered our food waste by at least 10% in the process.

I’ve started off this posting with an introduction to Bloom’s book to act a segway into the presentation of some research that we will be starting later this month at Pj’s.  Mike and I, along with our trusted Research Assistant Lauren will be studying what is referred to as ‘plate waste’.  “Plate waste” can be defined as the amount of food that has been served to a restaurant patron that they do not end up consuming.  We will be looking to quantify this as a percentage and have come up with a very interesting way to collect this data…..here’s how it’s going to work!

1.  All menu items are created from standard recipes and we will pre-weigh all food items and come up with a weight in ounces per dish.  We will then take our ‘item sales report’ generated by our POS system and calculate what the total weight of food was that we served that lunch period. This will be done by multiplying the amount of weight of each dish by the number sold.

2.  All unconsumed food scraps will be disposed of in a specially marked (neon pink) garbage can in the dishwashing area.  At the end of the lunch period we should be able to weigh this waste and divide it by the amount of food that was sent out to the restaurant patrons. The result will give us a percent plate waste for that specific lunch period.

3.  We would also like to ascertain what specific items that are  being served are ‘high waste’ items.  We will attempt to do this by taking pictures of assigned plates before they are served, and follow-up with a photo when they are returned to the kitchen after the guest has finished with them……….I’m very interested to see if we are able to do this effectively or not?????

Our research on this subject of plate waste is a key part of our sustainable restaurant project.  Although food waste has been studied in many aspects, restaurant ‘plate waste’ has  not been an area of great study.  It is our hope that by adding to the literature on this specific topic we can generate discussion within industry and perhaps come up with some possible solutions to what has long been a ‘non-issue’.   Please follow our blog during the semester as Lauren will be sharing our findings with you as we go along.  For more information on Jonathan Bloom’s book and his blog on food waste visit http://www.wastedfood.com/

Thanks for checking out our project!
Bruce

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