Find the Money for Healthy Institutional Food in Your Garbage Can

12 Apr Find the Money for Healthy Institutional Food in Your Garbage Can

You already have the money and time to cook delicious, nutritious food from scratch. I’ll explain in a moment. First, stand in your cafeteria one day and watch the garbage can fill up with food students throw out. Notice the amount of food left in the kitchen and on the service line at the end of lunch. With a trained eye, you can look inside the kitchen pantry, cooler, and freezer and see the amount of extra inventory on hand. Then in your imagination multiply the waste you see times the number of days in a school year and the number of schools in your district. Can you picture the Mount Everest of food waste?

Consider too that typical institutions waste 20-30% of their food budget. How much money would this be for your school, hospital, museum, or prison? Likely, it’s enough to buy quality ingredients and train your cafeteria staff with the culinary skills needed to cook from scratch.

3 examples of money hidden in the system

  1. How did Mililani High School reach a monthly fresh food rate of 88%?

In February 2018, Mililani High School made an average of 24.6% more breakfasts and 14.3% more lunches than were needed each day. This came out to an extra 6,157 portions in the month. One day the overproduction amounted to 13 hotel pans full of pork and cabbage equal to 550 pounds of food. Extrapolating this data across the district means 5,000 extra breakfasts and 13,000 extra lunches are produced every single day. By May 2019, Mililani High School made no extra breakfasts and only 7.5% more lunches than were needed daily.

  1. How did Westminster Community Charter School source 50% of their food from local farms?

Westminster Community Charter School operated with food costs averaging 54% during the 2014/2015 school year. With training to measure waste and predict participation, the food costs dropped to 40% on average the following school year.

  1. How did Kona Community Hospital increase sales and lower food costs?

The cafeteria team went from cooking four processed food entrees daily to two scratch cooked entrees daily – one meat dish and one vegetarian dish. They significantly reduced the amount of food waste generated from the additional entrees and more people came to eat the delicious food. Breakfast participation increased by 50%, Lunch increased by 13%, dinner increased by 23%, and catering increased by 50%.

For similar results at your institution, following are some questions you can ask your cafeteria manager to identify places where waste might be occurring in your cafeteria:

  • Do your recipes contain volume or weight measurements? Tip: Weight measurements are more exact and allow you to make the right amount of food.
  • How consistent are your portions? Tip: Practice with scales or measure a portion with a scale to use as an example until your portions are the right size on a regular basis.
  • How do you decide how much food to make? Tip: Organize production records by menu item to see trends and forecast more accurately.
  • Do you look in the garbage can daily to see what is being thrown out? Tip: The food in the garbage indicates wasted money and labor.

We’ve worked in dozens of institutions of varying types – public and private, city and rural, small and large – and the prevailing similarity is the money lost due to food waste. Reducing and eliminating food waste uncovers the money needed to buy high quality ingredients and start making food that your eaters want.

Ready to contribute to the well-being of the eaters in your institution? Stay tuned. In May we’ll focus on initial steps you can take to find hidden money and resources in your operation.

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