Americans throw away 90 billion pounds of food each year. We see that in our homes when cleaning the refrigerator. Compare that to the refrigerators in food service establishments! Many cafeterias serve hundreds of meals a day, offering a wide variety of choices. What do cafeteria managers do to control food waste?
Store leftovers in assigned places. Require all staff members to check that cooler at the start of the shift to plan and use of leftovers.
Plan cycle menus to utilize leftovers. Plan "potato soup" the day after "baked potatoes" are on the menu, and "barbecued chicken pizza" the day after "barbecued chicken".
Keep detailed sales records with number of each item sold. Note time of run-outs. Keep seasonal sales records. Use these to forecast for the next cycle.
When practical, prepare foods the day of service.
Check dates when unloading deliveries.
Rotate stock, using first in, first out.
Practice portion control. Limit self serve items to salad bar and fountain drinks.
Store and utilize leftovers safely.
Cool quickly in shallow layers. Some foods, like baked potatoes and roasts require cutting in half to cool properly.
Monitor cool down temperatures of hazardous foods 2 and 4 hours later to comply with health department rules.
Partner with a local soup kitchen.
Arrange for scheduled pickup of items. Some cafeterias operate weekdays only. Schedule a pickup on Friday of foods that can't be saved till Monday.
Keep records of donations with the goal of reducing overall leftovers. Non profit operations can use the value of these donations to maintain their status.
Ask your facility attorney and health department representative to assist in the planning of these donations. Many successful partnerships have existed for years.
National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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