This article was originally published in March 2022
Strategies to fight food waste
Food waste is an enormous contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. PCC is delving deep into new ways to address the problem, working to prevent, rescue and recover surplus foods. Here are some of the strategies that we’ve implemented in our stores and other works in progress:
Buying “whole crops”
Food requires vast amounts of resources to grow, harvest, transport and cook. This is why it’s important to also reduce the volume of surplus food generated in the first place. For example, farmers are oftentimes left with piles of perfectly edible produce because it doesn’t meet strict retail cosmetic standards.
A unique way that PCC solves for this issue is by purchasing, what is termed, “whole crops.” This means that we don’t specify the size and shape of fruits and vegetables from our farmers.
“With our commitment to buying whole crops, we take everything” says Kevin Byers, PCC’s senior produce merchandiser. “As you walk our produce department, look around, you’ll see all sorts of misshaped peppers and different-sized carrots.”
Our stores also minimize surplus food by adjusting the amount that we purchase and prepare based on closely assessing and anticipating consumer demand throughout different times of the day and the week.
Sharing the surplus
PCC never sends surplus food that’s safe to eat into the landfill. Since we began tracking in 2018, our stores have carefully sorted and donated over 4.4 million meals to food bank partners across the Puget Sound region through our Grocery Rescue Program.
The goal of this program is not only to prevent surplus food from being wasted, but also to support our local communities in need by ensuring they have access to good nutritious food. Our stores divert non-consumable food, such as produce trimmings, into commercial composting or on-site biodigestion.
Reducing food waste
PCC is focusing on specific areas of food waste such as bread, produce and prepared deli food.
Through a generous partnership with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), Cascadia Consulting Group recently completed an assessment of our deli operations at two of our stores. We plan to use key findings from this assessment to help us better understand the root causes of surplus deli food.
For instance, Cascadia recommended more granular data collection of sold and unsold food so that we can make more informed decisions and come up with creative solutions in our kitchens to minimize the overproduction of deli food.
In 2020 PCC joined the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment (PCFWC), a public-private partnership with some of the nation’s largest food businesses and local, state and provincial governments, all working collaboratively toward reducing and preventing food waste by 50% by 2030 (Washington state also established this goal in 2019).
Making a difference
It’s important to take steps like these because of the problem’s massive scope. Up to 40% of food is wasted in the U.S. each year. That’s about 400 pounds for every American. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the U.S. and China. Fortunately, there are many effective tools we can employ to fight this food waste problem, from source reduction to surplus food rescue and recovery efforts.
To learn more about how you can join our efforts and reduce food waste at home, visit this link.