Food waste
Apr 16, 2014 • By

The fight against food waste

I’ll be the first to admit it; I have never been particularly “green” or even very conscious about environmental issues. So when I started working on our Sustainability team at General Mills, I was a bit skeptical.

Well, three years later, I’m still here, and I’m now a believer in the power and purpose of sustainability.

As a finance professional, I am naturally drawn to numbers. And while there are a lot of staggering facts and figures out there in the realm of sustainability, there is one number that really gets to me: nearly 40 million tons of food waste are sent to landfills each year in the US. 40 million tons.

That’s almost 250 pounds per person!

I feel fortunate to work for a food company that takes this seriously, and one that is committed to reducing food waste. We have a corporate sustainability goal to reduce solid waste generation by 50 percent by 2015. In addition, General Mills recently became a founding member of the US Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA).

Food-Waste-Reduction-Alliance

But it’s more than just a goal; it’s part of what folks are doing every day.

Here are just three great examples:

-When starting up on a product launch for a new cereal, our plant in Covington, Ga, ended up with a large amount of leftover unpackaged ingredients with no home. Instead of disposing of the ingredient, our folks worked with Feeding America to find the only location that was capable of taking this bulk product and putting it into boxes in order to donate them. As a result of their resourcefulness, the team saved the equivalent of 12,000 boxes of cereal from going to waste, and the food was able to go to those in need.

-At our Wellston, Ohio, location, changing the way we prepare pizzas has saved nearly 4,000 metric tons of toppings that were dislocated during production. By slightly heating and melting the cheese, pizza toppings are now secured in place, reducing food waste on the line.

-I personally have been involved in an initiative to minimize food waste by making it easier to donate product. We’re focused on streamlining our systems by creating a direct communication link to Feeding America, and adding capabilities to donate ingredients and packaging, in addition to finished products. We estimate this could save up to 30 million pounds of waste each year.

This is not just a corporate issue.

Each one of us can drive change on a personal level. From being a savvier shopper to finding creative ways to use leftovers, we all can be part of the fight against food waste.

Why don’t you join us?

Editor’s Note: Today, the FWRA, a cross-sector initiative led by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA), released its Best Practices and Emerging Solutions Toolkit

The toolkit features a collection of successful strategies food manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators can employ to keep food waste out of landfills, and to reduce food waste at the source. The goal in producing the toolkit is to help companies establish, expand or optimize food waste reduction programs, and to elevate the issue of food waste within the industry. 

For a copy of the FWRA Best Practices and Emerging Solutions Toolkit, visit the FWRA web site at FoodWasteAlliance.org.