How can chefs help combat food waste? Easy — feed people


by Bradley Labarre, CEC

Of all of the food created in the United States every year, 40 percent — about $165 billion worth — goes uneaten. In fact, the number one contributor to landfills is food.

All of that uneaten food could feed over 25 million Americans. Food insecurity, where people have difficulty providing food for their household due to limited resources, effects approximately 15 million households in 2016.

In a country considered to be the wealthiest in the world, hunger and food insecurity statistics cannot go unnoticed. Food banks, church food pantries and area soup kitchens work to alleviate the problem, but they can’t do it alone. As Billy Shore, Founder and CEO of Share Our Strength, once said, “We need to work together to make sure that our nation, which has so much, is providing for citizens who have so little.”


Restaurants witness a staggering amount of food waste. The restaurant industry alone generates approximately 11 million tons of food waste annually — at a cost of about $25 billion per year. Imagine how many meals that might translate to for those who are hungry.

Chefs show love by feeding others — it’s in our DNA. This passion and nurturing personality is probably what gives chefs the motivation and stamina to work in this arduous and competitive industry.

Imagine if that stamina and motivation were geared towards the use of waste to feed those who can’t afford to eat or provide food for their families. Imaging if every chef and restaurant owner put this wasted food on a plate or in a to-go box and handed it to a struggling family, a widow or someone who recently lost his or her job. Instead of ending up in a landfill, those 11.4 million tons of food could fill a lot of thankful mouths in a dignified way.

This concept is not a new one. Massimo Bottura, an Italian chef, began Food for the Soul in London in 2016. He and a small crew of local volunteers feed the hungry with food waste from area supermarkets — full service with linen and china. The experience is a reflection of his Italian hospitality.

Just imagine, on a national scale, what could be done here in the United States. Thousands of people could be fed right in their neighborhoods. Restaurants could easily work in conjunction with grocery stores and food banks to supplement the wasted food that they already have. Dining rooms could be open to feed anyone in need during a time where the restaurant would normally be closed. Volunteers gathered from local churches and drug and alcohol recovery houses would be a great resource, and this concept would run full circle. Food waste percentages would go down, restaurants would use their waste in constructive and nurturing ways, the less fortunate get an amazing meal and the world is instantly a better place.

Chefs show love by feeding others — it’s in Our DNA.

Of course, this idea is just a suggestion. Those restaurants that cannot offer their dining room to the less fortunate could offer a “Chefs for Hunger Doggy Bag,” where leftovers could be turned into nutritious and balanced meals for an entire family. Let us not forget those that are not homeless. The working poor, kids in the summer that don’t have access to free school lunches, our aging community on a fixed income that may need to make a decision on whether to buy their medication or eat. There are those that have mental illness, unemployed people or families going through a tough transition. Anyone in need can take advantage of this service — it could be as close as the nearest foodservice establishment.

We mustn’t just save our charitable hearts for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter. We can make a difference in someone’s life every day! Any restaurant that has leftovers and the willingness to help can be a part of this movement. The goal is a willing dialogue to make a difference. It’s up to us to do what it takes. Save the waste, fill a tummy and save a life. A Facebook page was created to start this dialogue. Make a difference in your community today!