Across our operations, we’ve implemented practices that decrease the impact – and the cost – of waste. Starting with what we purchase, and continuing through to how we dispose of waste, we work hard every day to reduce our environmental footprint.
As a global food service company, we're proud to be recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion for our commitment to reduce food loss and waste in our operations by 50 percent by 2030.
Our approach to managing food waste is aligned with the EPA’s food recovery hierarchy, and with our “behind the scenes” food management programs, we make sure we are ordering accurate amounts of food, preparing and serving it in a way that limits waste, and tracking our progress.
Sometimes unique circumstances, like an event cancelled at the last minute, or an unexpected snow storm that closes dining facilities, causes us to make other plans. In those cases, we implement our food donation program to provide safe, unserved food to hunger relief agencies in our communities.
We partner with our clients to create robust recycling and composting programs to keep waste out of landfills. We also offer them solutions that help reduce waste at the source – like reusable to-go food and beverage containers, and “trayless” dining programs, which are proven to cut down on the amount waste created.
Our Food Management Process
According to industry standards, pre-consumer food waste shouldn’t exceed five percent of the total food purchased. We’re on par with those standards, but our goal is to go beyond that.
We’ve developed a food management process and training program that teaches our employees about using standard menus, proper portions, preparation and production, and keeping track of waste through an online portal. This online program lets us know not only how much we’ve reduced our food waste, but also the value.
By following our process, we’ve seen a measurable decrease in the amount of food waste across all our businesses – about 12.5 percent on average.
Our team at The Field Museum, for example, earned the Food Recovery Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The museum diverted 112 tons of food scraps and biodegradable materials from landfills in 2016. The restaurants and catering operations, which we manage, diverted 74% of its waste from landfills.
We’re one of several organizations recognized by the EPA as a Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion for our commitment to reduce food loss and waste in our U.S. operations by 50% by the year 2030.
We’re also taking a closer look at “ugly” produce – fruits and vegetables that have a few bumps and bruises and would ordinarily be destined for a landfill, but can be used for a variety of recipes. Ugly produce is becoming more available and we’re continuing to discuss how we can incorporate appropriate product in to our menus.
We know we can do even more, so we’re testing new technology, and engaging employees with recognition programs to support our progress.
As Aramark’s food service director at PwC, Michelle Chang oversees the $4.5 million food and beverage account, which includes a café, catering, a coffee shop, and various pantries. Environmental sustainability is a way of life at PwC, thanks to Michelle and her team.
“Being in New York City, just seeing Bryant Park from the 21st floor of this building, it really reminds me why we need to be engaged in environmental sustainability every single day,” she says. “I feel so proud to work for Aramark because we have such a strong commitment to the environment."
In the U.S. alone, about 40 percent of the food supply is wasted, totaling more than 20 lbs. of food per person per month.
“That’s a big number and our actions make a difference,” Chang said. Minimizing waste is a team effort, including our managers and associates, Chang explained.
Each day, Aramark’s PwC staff diligently completes production sheets to weigh their waste. Her team analyzes trends in past reduction sheets, customer counts, weather changes, and waste logs to make proper adjustments in production to minimize waste. Using this data, Chang’s team can accurately forecast ways to adjust its actions to increase waste minimization. They also get a better idea of what guests enjoy in the café.
Chang said the associates are the true heroes of Aramark’s green initiatives at PwC because they are extremely engaged in the process. They also make it fun for the staff through contests to see who can generate the least amount of waste.
Our first goal is to reduce waste at the source. But when unusual circumstances leave us with extra food, we donate our unused food to non-profit organizations and hunger relief agencies in our communities whenever we can.
We partner with The Food Donation Connection (FDC), a non-profit agency that connects us with community organizations, and helps us ensure food safety and distribution.
For more than 20 years, FDC has been connecting donors with more than 8,000 community organization, such as shelters, community centers, food pantries and children’s organizations, that help feed those in need in the US, Canada, and the UK.
Food Donation Connection identifies local agencies, approved by the regional health department, that most need the food donations, and assists the agencies with the food donation process, training them on processing, labeling and storing, and tracking food donations safely.
We also work with our front-line employees, educating them about our program, so we can continue to reduce food waste while feeding those in need.
Aramark’s UC Irvine Partnership Helps People in Need
While the earth’s future is top of mind at The University of California at Irvine (UCI), local people in need benefit directly from this Aramark partnership every day.
UCI leads the nation in higher education waste diversion, saving 80 percent of its waste from landfills. Minimizing comes first, but on the rare occasions overproduction is unavoidable, food goes directly to local people in need, Tyson Monagle explained. Monagle is the marketing coordinator at UCI and sustainability steward for Aramark’s West Region for higher education.
“By donating to our local partners, there is a direct benefit to people who are incredibly disadvantaged and vulnerable in the communities we serve,” Monagle said.
Monagle’s team follows Aramark’s food donation guidelines by focusing on food that is produced, unserved, safe to eat, and cannot be repurposed. These items are provided to the local community.
Food Donation Connection (FDC) manages the network of local food relief agencies.
UCI staff first stores food to be donated. Then, it’s frozen to hold at a safe temperature until it can be picked up by a local food donation partner, such as The Vineyard Church of Anaheim, which has a food pantry, serves hot meals, and provides bagged lunches to the homeless.
The benefit of the program is twofold -- people in need get immediate help and products are kept from landfills, Monagle explained.
Every year, more than 8 million tons of plastics leak into the world’s oceans. We're committed to stopping waste before it is generated and are proud to announce a holistic strategy to address single-use plastics, such as straws, stirrers, bags and more. We'll be starting with straws and stirrers and offering our customers reusable products, encouraging consumers to join us and looking ahead at design and innovation that will reduce single-use plastics even more. These actions will take place across global food service operations. We expect that nearly 100 million straws and stirrers will be removed from the waste stream every year.
According to a recent Aramark consumer survey, 60% of respondents are concerned with the overuse of plastic and nearly 80% are trying to reduce personal consumption by recycling and reusing plastic bottles and bags.
To make sure our approach works for all of our clients and consumers, each business has an action plan that includes making straws available for those who need them - like people with disabilities and hospital patients.
“With this announcement, Aramark has raised the bar for action on single-use plastics. Not only has the company promised to reduce its reliance on throwaway plastic immediately, it will prioritize reusable systems, better design and innovation, public education, and transparency. This new global policy puts direct pressure on other foodservice and fast moving consumer goods companies to act on the plastic pollution crisis immediately."
Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges
Composting “Second Nature” at Taft School
Waste minimization is at the forefront for the Aramark team at Taft School, our partner site in higher education dining. About 600 students, faculty, and their families are served three meals daily, every day (including weekends) at this idyllic private high school in Watertown, Connecticut.
The back-of-the-house compost program at Taft started three years ago when a group of students interested in the environment and the farm movement called “ecomons”, (short for Taft School’s student ecomonitors), and their teacher requested the program.
At present, Aramark staff at Taft composts an average 1,350 lbs of waste each week. For the kitchen staff, composting quickly became a habit.
“Everyone’s on board, the cooks keep food waste totes by their stations and it’s become second nature to throw it in the tote rather than the garbage,” Gretchen Lockyer, Food Service Supervisor at Taft, said.
“It’s important to me and I love the fact that Aramark supports this,” she added.
Lockyer has been at Taft with Aramark for five years.
“I’m a farmer and I grew up on a farm,” she said. “Farms were the first place for composting—nothing gets wasted on a farm.”
The team composts all food waste including vegetable ends, fruit peels, fat trimmed in prep, egg shells, and more.
The compost bins are stored in separate coolers across from the kitchen. Twice a week, a composting company picks up the totes. Each weighs around 90 lbs and they usually fill 15 totes a week. The compost company uses the scraps to make mulch.
“If you can’t donate leftover food, it’s so much better to compost than to dump waste in a landfill,” Lockyer said.
Whether it’s cooking for a crowd, or making smart kitchen swaps, Aramark and the American Heart Association will help you put together a winning holiday game plan.
Did you know the number of children in the United States with food allergies increased by more than 50 percent over the past 20 years? As students move to college campuses, they are in charge of their dining habits for the first time. Ensure your campus is a safe haven for these students by creating an allergy-free zone. Not convinced? Learn more here.