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Hotel Industry Teams Up with World Wildlife Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation to Reduce Food Waste

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NEW YORK—World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, has unveiled results from a set of projects demonstrating innovative strategies aimed at reducing food waste in the hotel industry. Based on the results, WWF, AHLA, and The Rockefeller Foundation are releasing a toolkit with strategies to help hotel properties and brands meet measurable, time-bound goals to reduce food waste.

Ten hotel properties participated in the 12 weeks of demonstration projects, including a mix of full-service branded hotels and several independent operations across the country. They tested different waste reduction strategies, including low-waste menu planning, staff training and education, and customer engagement. Overall, participating properties reduced food waste at least 10 percent and in some cases properties lowered food costs by 3 percent or more after increasing measurement and engagement. These findings support case studies conducted by waste tracking technology companies, which typically show cost reduction of 3 to 8 percent. The program results also revealed that teams achieved greater success at properties where the owners, general managers, and executive staff were highly engaged.

“This project demonstrated that hotel staff can establish new approaches to cut food waste, which in turn reduces food preparation and disposal costs,” said Pete Pearson, Director of Food Waste at World Wildlife Fund. “Collaboration and leadership by sectors like the hospitality industry will allow us to implement prevention strategies and solve problems faster.”

Food Waste Reduction Recommendations

In line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and Champions 12.3, WWF and AHLA recommend that U.S. hotels accomplish the following:

  • Measure food waste and set reduction goals from a baseline year.
  • Establish food donation strategies and community food recovery partnerships.
  • Set goals that ensure inedible food waste from hotels is diverted away from landfills.

“Hotels are more committed than ever before to reducing food waste,” said Katherine Lugar, President and CEO of AHLA. “We are encouraged by the findings of the demonstration projects and are excited to be able to share the tools we have developed with our broader membership. By partnering with WWF and The Rockefeller Foundation, we can share new tools and resources to build on the success of this program and propel the industry to a new level of commitment around food waste reduction.”

The average American household spends an estimated $1,500 to $2,000 a year on food they never eat. Businesses, manufacturers, and farms spend $74 billion creating and transporting food that ends up in a landfill at an enormous environmental cost—wasting money, as well as land, water, energy, and other limited, valuable resources needed to produce food. With all that wasted food, the planet’s malnourished could be fed several times over.

“Worldwide, good food is going to waste rather than reaching hungry mouths, and through our YieldWise initiative, we are working to harness the power of corporations to reverse this troubling trend,” said Devon Klatell, Associate Director at The Rockefeller Foundation. “This project proves that change can happen, and what we learned through these demonstrations can be adapted and scaled across a variety of industries, beyond the hospitality sector. We now know that implementing proven food waste reduction strategies can reap large rewards for businesses looking to reduce their footprints, save money, and drive sustainability within our food system.”

As a culmination of their efforts, WWF, AHLA, and The Rockefeller Foundation developed a toolkit that shares key findings and guiding principles as well as provides next steps to tackle food waste in the hotel industry. The toolkit is an easy-to-use guide to help drive sector-wide participation in food waste reduction programs. The toolkit stresses the value of regular training programs, outlines a sequence of practices to develop food waste prevention strategies, and advises on how to collect and share data to adjust and improve performance. It also urges instilling a greater value towards food among staff and guests—something that is applicable across the entire food system.

“We no longer have the luxury of time,” Pearson said. “Because our food carries such a high environmental cost, avoiding waste is a win-win for both business and the planet. As these demonstration projects show, with increased hotel industry engagement, we know we can make a difference. We strongly encourage more hotel companies to participate in this valuable program and accelerate change.”

About the Project

WWF and AHLA, in conjunction with a working group from AHLA’s Food & Beverage Committee and Sustainability Committee, developed each demonstration project to tackle a critical step along the hotel food management process. This included measuring food waste outputs on a regular basis, tracking employee training programs, creating menus designed to limit food waste, and raising awareness with customers. The program launched on March 21, 2017 with hotel brand participation from Hilton, Hyatt, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), and Marriott International, as well as Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, Sage Hospitality, and Terranea Resort. The demonstration projects were also developed with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation’s YieldWise initiative, which aims to reduce post-harvest food loss and halve the world’s food waste by 2030.

The toolkit can be downloaded at www.hotelkitchen.org.

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