Welcome to 2017! As 2016 came to a close, upcoming 2017 trends list kept popping up in my inbox and I was especially excited to see a common trend included in almost all the food and drink lists I came across - food waste.
Here at the IWRC, we've been focused on food waste for a handful of years now. Starting with market research to understand the problem, research studies to document food waste throughout Iowa, educational workshops, and targeted grant-funded projects to help businesses and organizations throughout Iowa reduce the amount of food being wasted and sent to our landfills. I've noticed more and more organizations working towards reducing food waste, apps being created to help restaurants donate more food to non-profit hunger relief agencies, increases in industry conferences focusing sessions on the topic, and even more mainstream media networks talking about it.
The more we talk about it, the greater progress we'll make which is why I was so excited to see food waste on the main trends lists. Here are a few that stood out.
Food waste reduction comes in at the #7 spot on the National Restaurant Association's Top 10 Concept Trends for the year. No movement from 2016 when it was also in the #7 spot but I have definitely noticed more and more news about restaurants doing more to keep food from being thrown away, whether that's repurposing meals or donating to a local non-profit hunger relief agency.
Edelman Insights (particularly the Global Food and Beverage Sector) ranks the 15 food finds they envision for 2017 and on that list at #6 - War Against Waste. The big take away from them - focusing on reducing food waste is no longer just wishful thinking, it's a wise business move.
Whole Foods Market looks at the consumer side of trends and I was excited to see food waste reduction still made the list. While the earlier parts of the food supply (agricultural, production, manufacturing) play a significant role in the amount of food we're throwing away, we are also throwing away a lot of food in our kitchens. Their last trend, Mindful Meal Prep, looks at how people can reduce food waste, which at a residential level means throwing away less money too.
National Geographic predicts advocates will place a lot of significance on making reducing food waste reduction as automatic as recycling. One thing I like about their focus on food waste is that they also highlight that when we waste food, we waste the water and land that was used to grow and produce that food. In the video that accompanies the article, Tristram Stewart, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, explains that because food has become cheaper, people have become more affluent, and unfortunately over time the result is that food became a disposable commodity.
So what now? Food waste is on the trend lists but what does that mean? Well, there is a lot of work to be done to quit wasting 40% of our food but continued education and awareness are strong catalysts towards change. I'm excited about the IWRC's efforts we're taking this year - a project focused on helping Iowa rural communities reduce food waste and the first-of-its-kind event in the Midwest being hosted in September, the Midwest Food Recovery Summit. We're bringing hundreds of people together for two and a half days to talk about, learn about, and develop strategies towards food waste recovery.
It's only the start of 2017 but I think by the end of the year, we'll see food waste as a much more common trend until hopefully one day we don't have to worry about it and food will remain as it's meant to be - as a resource.
About the Author
Iowa Waste Reduction Center, Business and Community Services
This material is based upon work supported under a grant by the Rural Utilities Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Rural Utilities Service.
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