Next time you see decals stuck to a restaurant’s door, take a closer look. Restaurant certification programs go miles beyond Yelp reviews or even sanitation grades from the Department of Health.
Slow Food has their Snail of Approval which denotes a restaurant that uses local and sustainable ingredients. You may see signs reading “Certified Green” for places that recycle and use water and energy more efficiently. Labor organizations like the Restaurant Opportunities Center have online lists like the National Diner’s Guide which tell you how well your favorite haunt treats its workers.
Now there’s a new decal to watch for on restaurant doors near you: Food Recovery Certified.
The simple title is awarded to companies that “donate food to a 501(c)3 non-profit organization at least once per month” and pay a $100 certification fee. It’s not a lot to ask but goes a long way toward keeping food out of landfills. You don’t have to be a restaurant to get this certification either – any company is eligible whether it’s a school cafeteria or large business.
Food waste is one of the few areas of food policy to generate relatively little controversy and maybe that’s why it gets less coverage than hot topics like GMOs or climate change. Diners are usually aware of “wasted” food when they decide to throw out leftovers rather than asking for a to-go bag. Yet many restaurants prepare large portions of things like salad, steak tartare, or side dishes to make each order exit the kitchen more quickly. Too often this food ends up in a trashcan at the end of the night – sometimes just because there’s nowhere else for it to go.
Food Recovery Certified is sponsored by the Food Recovery Network which recovers extra perishable foods and donates them to people in need. This new program and its decal simply makes that work more public. Food waste because of inadequate distribution systems is one of the saddest mishaps of food policy.
The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 1.3 billion tons of food – one-third of the world’s production – are wasted every year. Remember your parents telling you to finish your meal because there were “children starving in Africa?” Consumers in wealthier countries waste almost as much food as the entire production of sub-Saharan Africa.
Unfortunately your unfinished food isn’t magically whisked away to someone in need. But as more companies, restaurants, homes, and cafeterias see the importance and practicality of programs like this, there may be change for the better.
-Tove K. Danovich