Rescuing food makes economic sense
By Ashley Stanley
Boston Business Journal
Massachusetts is rooted in innovation. We are home to renowned academic institutions and market-leading businesses that produce some of the world’s most advanced technologies and that pioneer solutions to complex problems, and yet we remain behind the curve in one critical area: food waste.
Bay State businesses and institutions regularly throw away tons of edible food. Every year, Massachusetts disposes of approximately 1.3 million tons of organic waste, according to state figures.
But it makes financial sense for businesses to rescue at least some of that good food from the trash heap. Food rescue organizations like ours and a committed group of supermarkets, restaurants and farms have undertaken an effort to help others benefit from this food. The result is that every day there are those less fortunate in our region who sit down to a meal of fresh, wholesome food. Food rescue is working — we just need a broader effort.
The more food that businesses remove from their own waste stream, the less they’ll have to pay in disposal costs. Businesses can also lower expenses by purchasing only the food that will be used. And at the end of the year, businesses can cash in on a tax benefit for donating wholesome food to food banks or food rescue organizations.
An example from a few years ago shows how rescuing food can help boost the bottom line. A program by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Food Association promoted the recycling and reuse of organic waste among supermarkets across the state. In 2010, this resulted in more than 225 stores from seven major chains saving between $3,000 and $20,000 in annual waste disposal costs per store.
More recently, a proposal by the Patrick administration would divert more food waste from large institutions — such as supermarkets, colleges, hospitals and hotels. Food would be donated or given to food rescue organizations. Food that could not be repurposed would be sent to anaerobic digestion facilities, where through a process involving microbes that break down food, it would be converted to energy.
The National Resource Defense Council estimates that American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food they buy, which costs the average family of four $1,365 to $2,275 annually.
The economic impact of food waste cannot be overstated, which is why we must take action to prevent avoidable costs and support new opportunities for growth.
Ashley Stanley is founder and executive director of Lovin’ Spoonfuls.