Food waste in office catering - an insurmountable challenge?

Managing food waste has always been a monumental challenge for contract caterers - but insurmountable? We think not. This year, we’ve embarked on some interesting partnerships to tackle the problem of food waste in our business. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

We started working with FoodCycle to learn more about the problem of food waste and raise awareness about the issue amongst our employees and clients. We realise that one of the keys to reducing waste will be education and behaviour change. We have taken part in 3 of FoodCycle’s Food Invention Challenges where we gather a group of staff and/or clients to cook meals from surplus food for a local charity. After each one, our chefs have come back inspired by creative ideas that we intend to translate into some of our daily changing menus. We are noticing a positive shift in attitudes towards working with surplus produce and a renewed focus on finding ways of reducing waste in existing production cycles.

Our first FoodCycle Invention Challenge

Our first FoodCycle Invention Challenge

We’re employing OLIO to redistribute surplus but edible food. OLIO volunteers pick up the food from our client sites, post it to the OLIO app and coordinate distribution to those who want the food. From December to May, we have donated 962 portions of food, contributing to 458 meals, saving 192 kg of food going to waste. This means a CO2 savings of nearly 826 kgs. Over 95.5% of the food collected has been redistributed - which as OLIO points out, must mean the food is really tasty!

An OLIO volunteer picking up our delicious surplus food

An OLIO volunteer picking up our delicious surplus food

We installed an ORCA. No, not an actual whale! An ORCA is a 100% recycling solution to disposing of unavoidable food waste. It’s essentially a mechanical stomach that digests food waste and turns it into liquid that can be disposed of through the existing sewage infrastructure. Believe me, we were sceptical at first - it just doesn’t sound right to put your food waste down the drain. But it is WRAS approved. Here’s what Thames Water does with the sludge created. Plus, it takes trucks off the road. There are actually A TON of benefits to using the ORCA - but we’ll leave those for another post.

Our ORCAs just installed

Our ORCAs just installed

We’ve been trying to figure out how to tackle the food waste issue in our business for a long time but it’s just in the past 6 months or so that it feels like we’re actually gaining momentum and making positive changes. There is still a long way to go. We need to be reducing our waste in the first instance by reviewing best practices in the kitchen and getting our portion sizes right. Better communication with our clients is also essential. Still, our involvement with FoodCycle, OLIO and ORCA has been a great motivator for our staff and will help us stay positive on the long journey ahead.

Are you a caterer? What are you doing with your food waste? Let’s share ideas!

Are you looking for a caterer that’s at the forefront of sustainable thinking in our industry? Contact us today!