LANE COUNTY — The latest Food Waste Stops with Me workshop attracted nearly 50 people from the food service industry in Lane County, representing about 25 different businesses and organizations. Along with chefs and restauranteurs, food service officials from kitchens at the University of Oregon and Lane Community College took part.
Elaine Blatt, DEQ senior policy and program analyst, and Marie Diodati, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) grant coordinator/specialist, greeted attendees and checked them in at WildCraft Cider Works. Blatt and Diodati, who are both in the materials management program, also contributed to the lively conversation. Topics ranged from how to calculate the amount of food waste a kitchen is producing to how menu changes might result in less wasted food.
Food Waste Stop with Me workshops are the result of collaboration among DEQ, the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association and Metro. Earlier workshops took place in the Portland metro area, and Tuesday’s event was the fourth in other parts of Oregon. Previous workshops took place in Bend, Medford and Seaside. Lane County Waste Management led the effort to have a workshop in Eugene.
The Food Waste Stops with Me education revolves around keeping food waste out of landfills, where it takes up space and creates greenhouse gases, Blatt said. Also, the water, ingredients and energy that were a part of someone making food are lost when it goes uneaten.
“Every time we waste a pound of food we are wasting all the resources that went into it,” Blatt said.
Curbing food waste is a way that restaurants and individuals can create environmental benefits, such as addressing climate change, said Cathy Brown, DEQ waste reduction specialist at the Western Region office in Eugene. And, for people in the food business, reducing food waste has financial incentive. The less food restaurants waste, the more money they save.
“For them it’s the bottom line,” she said. “It’s a huge savings.”
Tackling food waste in a professional kitchen begins with a food audit, said Micah Elconin, director of Eugene’s Table and the leader of the Eugene workshop.
That means getting messy. He suggested that kitchen staff collect every piece of food waste for a day or so.
“You want to capture that stuff,” he said. “Throw it out on a tarp and start looking at it.”
Even a seemingly small amount of food waste can add up. If a kitchen is producing five pounds of food waste per day that totals nearly a ton per year.
Workshop participants left with worksheets, information packages and containers for food waste.
Max Grey, kitchen manager at Cornbread Cafe in Springfield, said they planned to reevaluate the eatery’s menu as a result of the workshop. The review will look at portion sizes and what to have as standing orders, such as whether to top every burger with lettuce, tomato and onion.
“Being able to zoom in and zoom out is a beneficial lesson of this (training),” Grey said.
Lane County waste experts are already considering holding a spin-off workshop, focused on takeout containers, said Angie Marzano, waste reduction specialist for the county. The event would build on connections created at the Food Waste Stops with Me workshop.
“That’s where I think we are going to go next,” she said.
For more information go to http://foodwastestopswithme.org/.