The Challenge


What global challenge do you think innovation leaders should work to solve right now? read the brief


Reduce Hunger by Reducing Waste

What can we do to prevent food from catering, events, food stylists, grocery stores, etc. from going into the trash and get it to people who need it?
Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio's book "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" documents what families around the world through beautiful imagery that tells a powerful story (as seen here:,29307,1626519,00.html. A recent Twitter conversation with Amsterdam-based stylist Pia Jane Bijkerk [@piajanebijkerk] got me re-thinking about the question about what we don't eat, but throw away.

In an interview Pia did with the blog Conserve Delhi, she reflected about being a stylist and how it can be a wasteful industry, and how she turns to the handmade and upcycling in her own style. She noted that food styling can be the most wasteful of all, and wished there was sort of food salvage program: "an organisation that has a schedule of food shoots around the city and goes to each shoot at the end of the day and picks up the excess food – food that is still edible would be taken to shelters, and the rest would be composted and made into soil that local people can purchase, or that is used for city gardens."

This made me think to my own experience and frustrations when I worked in catering during college - both for a big corporation, as well with a local vendor. What killed me most was that at the end of an event, while we were allowed to have a meal, we were not allowed to take food home (especially with the corporate company tied to the university). What wasn't eaten had to go into the trash (we once even threw out an entire large trash can of perfectly good, untouched cookies). It was particularly heartbreaking as the majority of people I was working with were low-income single parents with other issues to juggle - the food had a viable place to go without any other intermediaries. I brought up the issue with the management on multiple occasions, yet bureaucratic practices, liability and health code always got in the way. I couldn't help thing that a homeless person would gladly sign a waiver not faulting the company if it meant that they got to eat a meal.

Ironically this issue of waste of food is more prevalent in the developed world - I saw it in the US, Pia in Europe - rather than the developing world. It seems to me we could save money, sanity and peace of mind if we could find a viable solution to food waste.

Unfortunately, I have not seen any solutions where I live, but the interview mentions two services in Melbourne that provide excess food collection: Second Bite and Fare Share . Both look like great examples, and the author asks if programs like this exist elsewhere in the world. Does anyone know of any?

What needs or issues does it address?
Cuts down waste and feeds those who cannot afford food.


Join the conversation and post a comment.

Liz Kramer

November 17, 2010, 05:00AM
There are a number of great organizations in the US that do food rescue of this sort, and having worked with a few of them, especially on campuses, it's really interesting to see how food vendors often don't know how much they are wasting until they are packing it up to donate. Just by seeing the quantity of food that went into packages, to the vans and off to homeless shelters, the vendor changed their kitchen strategy and dramatically reduced food waste. Eventually, they not only changed the amount of food they were providing, but also started a program to improve up-front preparation waste.

I think this could be applicable in a lot of different areas, not just food — seeing the waste up front, rather than gradually as it's sloughed off into black trash bags can help emphasize a need for a change. When the disparity is more obvious, people are motivated to make a change in their personal behavior.

Anne Ditmeyer

November 16, 2010, 17:19PM
After coming across this post in yesterday's GOOD e-newsletter I started rethinking what "hunger" actually means. I'd like to start thinking about hunger beyond food, but the hunger for all basic needs. PASS THE BATON is a new "personal culture marketplace" that's happening in Japan which further proves one man's trash is another man's treasure. In this model, people not only pass along objects, but they pass along stories with them.

Sabra Marcroft

November 14, 2010, 07:23AM Food waste can be used to produce fuel alcohol as part of the process of making it into good compost.

Peter Kelly

November 13, 2010, 20:18PM
Caveat: According to the ICAI (Chartered Accountants) Food Security will become the more NB than energy within our lifetimes.
Food Production in 2007 according to The Economist.
Meat: China 90.5million tonnes (no waste I'd say)
      US 41.8 million tonnes (what happening)
      Brazil 20 million tonnes
      Argentina 4.4 million tonnes
      Ireland/Sweeden ?
Total of Top Ten is 191.882 million tonnes of meat
one 550 kg animal produces minimum 292,000 litres of gas per year (Reuters)
Thats 101,871,898,200,000 litres of gas for the unfortunate ones that year.
Cow Backpacks&Tanks plus Keanan Fodder Mulchers Are in this season He.

Total Tonnes of Coffeebeans Produced in 2007 is 5,832,000 tonnes.
Thats alot Johan.

Food business will need to get cleverer.

Peter Kelly

November 13, 2010, 18:49PM
I buy mostly unprocessed organic foods and both of us are fitness freaks, the wheelie bin appears heavy to my being and I have empitied it twice this year. What worries me most is leachate from the landfill esp. with the rise in rainfall in November and the proximity of the catchment area to old households. Sites like these make me feel heavy, though solving hazards fore good makes my spirit soar.
Looking at global food intake in tonnage is probably hazardous to my health however its stated in the Economist Pocket World Book in Figures 2010. 300 kg is merely a belief. Obiesity is recognised as unacceptable by some corporations and that is a start. Given that Corporate Social Responsibility is seen as profitable entities are adjusting this formality that we had little choice in attending.


Anne Ditmeyer

November 13, 2010, 18:14PM
Johan - I love that concept of the sharing refrigerator in Sweden - I think one with a glass door/front would be even more powerful so you could see what's inside.

Johan Löfström

November 13, 2010, 17:48PM
Hey Peter in Cork! I was there exactly 10 years ago! Grand! :)

   I have to ask: 300 kg of food waste per year??? per person???
Can't you learn how to cook the exact amount that you would eat?

I think i waste only 5-10 kg food & organic compostables per year. (paper napkins, coffee filter, tea bags and so on)

and we have a municipal compost program here in Gävle, Sweden.
We have a brown plastic bin next to the regular green bin for unrecyclable waste. The community garbage company makes perfect soil that we can buy back for a cheap amount if we need.
And during the compost process they collect all gases and sells it as a fuel for heating.
Reducing garbage collection fees and landfills.

Johan Löfström

November 13, 2010, 17:28PM
I want to contribute with a marvelous thing i saw in a supermarket in Stockholm, Sweden.

   The shop had bought a standard refrigerator, and it's placed visibly just inside the doors, as a reminder to people going in and going out of the shop.
The front door of the fridge had a message to shoppers to try to buy one extra portion per week/or two per month and place in this fridge.
A volunteer organisation went by every night and picked up the food inside it.
They cook the food at local soupkitchen and shared it amongst those with needs in the area.
roughly 200 homeless persons in that area.
If this was placed in more shops it could create a habit of some to regularly buy some stuff to donate it instantly in the shop.
I am not sure if the shop donated themselves, but i can imagine that they are thinking twice before throwing away anything. It costs a lot for a shop to have garbage collected here.

Anne Ditmeyer

November 13, 2010, 16:24PM
Peter, very true about the sense of pride. This reminded me of one of my favorite dining experiences at Friends - a restaurant in Cambodia which is serviced (food and table waiting) by street children who are part of the Friends International program to improve the lives of young people. It was a delicious and memorable meal.

Dogwood is a restaurant in Baltimore that uses local and organic foods. They also have a social mission, "to transform lives one plate at a time by providing training opportunity and paid employment to individuals who are transitioning from addiction, incarceration, homelessness, and/or underemployment." Perhaps transitional workers such as in this case could act as a liaison between restaurants/businesses and the communities in need.

Peter Kelly

November 13, 2010, 16:11PM
Both my Mum and I produce about 300kg of foodwaste per year appox. Now we have a dedicated wheelie bin with an orange CH4 (Methane) Hazchem sticker on the front of it. Currently at the managed landfill sites try and trap CH4 with boreholes and pipes. Seperation to a municipal digester or biomass facility could store the 63.8% CH4 for resale or send it into the grid.
With respect, I should very much like when (PEPSICO) with displaced communities offer verified W.H.O. standard water for sale at some supermarket here in Ireland and accross the "developed" world from entrenched and >20 year displacement. Possibly to fund the arbitration of broadcast and polarised views.
Common sense dictates that we should have a drive thru where we could leave with implied waiver unwanted food and household items for the homeless and people with security issues. Having worked with homeless who all have a certain pride, I think that a personal cookery programme of nurishment would help them fend off. It raises awareness and releases endorphins. Alcohol and drug tests to verify their human effort and will for screening purposes is cool by me. Here in Cork St. Vincent de Paul collect food especially during Christmas time because there are people who go to sleep hungry. In economics the term "Giffen Good" is a historical term because people are no longer dependent on the price of bread.

Anne Ditmeyer

November 13, 2010, 15:52PM
Great thoughts everyone!

Arjan- I hadn't heard of it, but that makes sense, and glad to hear it's happening. I forgot to mention in my post about friend's dumpster diving during college - I can't tell you how many "expired" frozen cookies I ate ;)

Eric - Interesting thought. It's like when we move cities we invite all our friends over to claim the crap/food we don't want/need anymore. No one seems to care that it's something the person doesn't want anymore - we're just happy to have a free new thing. As people's time is so precious these days, it's nice to create alternative ways of giving back.

Elizabeth - And thank you for the great interview with Pia on your site! Fascinating to learn that there are issues of harmful gases with too much waste. Thanks too for the additional links! FareShare made me think how organizations like this could work with local companies - who are already commuting - to help act as transport vehicles. Agreed that LoveFoodHateWatse does help you think about food/waste differently.

Meena - Neat about the Super Marmite network - I could see that as a good way for students to get good, healthy & affordable meals too. And I've heard of freecycling, but never for food. Even if an apple is a little soft, or a banana is a little mushy, it still can be made into something delicious.

Arjan Tupan

November 13, 2010, 11:30AM
I have seen this issue from close by as well. One thing I heard for a solution of getting around liability, was that a company that had excess food would call a shelter or the salvation army, and let them know where the food would be 'dumped' (well packed of course) and when, so the charity could pick it up directly and distribute it to people who could really use it. Silly that it has to be that way, but still, maybe one way of dealing with it.

Eric Villarama

November 13, 2010, 03:37AM
I absolutely agree on this. Your idea helped me think of this thought: How can the people who receive this food better their lives from it? ie. If extra food were given to others before the food became waste, how can we make it that the people receiving the food don't take advantage of the food and become lazy? I'm sure there are several great ideas that can come from this so that the people who receive the food are rewarded somehow by doing something? Community service? Volunteerism? Just a thought. Great inspiration, Anne!

Elizabeth Franzmann

November 12, 2010, 18:06PM
Hi Anne, thanks for mentioning our Conserve Delhi 2010 project blog and leading me to this very interesting site! There are many issues with our current dominant food system around the world - eg large amounts of food waste ending up rotting in landfill can give off methane - a highly potent greenhouse gas. But there are lots of positive ideas cropping up in response as well. While I was googling Melbourne's Fareshare I also came across a similar organisation in the UK and there's the campaign site, lots of good info and simple tips to love your food and make less waste. Particularly like the storage tips. Cheers, Liz

Meena Kadri

November 12, 2010, 14:02PM
Hi Anne – I just noticed this on Springwise yesterday: an online network that helps home cooks sell their extra portions You've also reminded me of an public space/art initiative from down in New Zealand earlier this year which redistributed surplus food from local suppliers:
Login to OpenIDEO