Blog Post

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Food Recovery Hierarchy ranks source reduction at the top of its priorities as a strategy to reduce wasted food. In Massachusetts, food waste is the largest single material found in the trash. Preventing food waste can have significant beneficial impacts on a business’ bottom line, employee and customer satisfaction, and the environment.

A recent EPA webinar, Preventing Food Waste Upstream: A Source Reduction Approach, highlighted successful food waste prevention programs in the San Diego Unified School District, Price Chopper, and Boston College, and promoted the EPA Food Recovery Challenge, a free program which helps businesses track and measure surplus food and set achievable goals to reduce food waste.

The San Diego Unified School District includes 180 schools that serve more than 130,000 meals and snacks each day. The district’s Environmental Specialist described how they have applied a variety of source reduction techniques, which save the district nearly $400,000 annually. District schools recover edible food through share tables, where students can donate uneaten items to other students. Schools with a salad bar have reduced waste by decreasing pan sizes from 4” deep to 2” deep. Food service staff further prevent food waste and save money by carefully planning menus, forecasting and purchasing food accurately, implementing Offer versus Serve practices, and educating staff and students about food waste prevention.

Price Chopper operates 133 supermarkets in six states. Price Chopper’s approach to reducing food waste and achieving gross profit goals is done through the company’s Shrink Reduction Initiative, a program that tracks wasted food in dollars. The company improves their bottom line each year by working with Shrink Committees to conduct weekly shrink audits with stores that are struggling to meet monthly goals. These initiatives help store managers measure losses, reward stores that meet goals, and provide education to employees. The Shrink Reduction Initiative has helped department managers accurately schedule and order items, whereas managers would previously over order due to fear of running out.

Boston College Dining serves more than 22,000 meals each day. In an effort to prevent food waste and cut costs, Boston College implemented numerous wasted food prevention practices, including:

  • Adjusting inventory orders based on customer purchasing patterns
  • Modifying menus to increase customer satisfaction
  • Ensuring proper food storage techniques
  • Implementing trayless dining
  • Reducing serving sizes and avoiding the use of garnishes that are rarely eaten
  • Creating a culture of food waste prevention among students, staff, and the community

Boston College Dining also uses the food waste prevention technology LeanPath to weigh and track food waste. This technology provides data on which foods are being wasted and enables staff to calculate the financial impacts of food waste from week to week. Since incorporating LeanPath, Boston College Dining has saved more than $500,000 and diverted nearly 200,000 tons of food from disposal. In 2018, Boston College reported a nearly 60% reduction in monthly food waste when compared to their pre-program baseline.

RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts assists businesses and institutions with recycling, reuse, and food waste reduction. RecyclingWorks provides food waste estimation and source reduction guidance, as well as sector-specific resources for supermarkets, colleges and universities, and more. To speak to a recycling and food waste diversion expert, call our hotline: (888) 254-5525 or email us at