Food Waste and Food Rescue in Institutional Consumption
The reduction in consumption in event halls and hotels, which is characterized by high waste rates of around 38%, and the forced shift to at-home consumption, which is characterized by lower waste rates (16) of about 13%, contributed to a decrease in food waste in the institutional sector of about 110 thousand tons in 2020 compared to 2019.
Based on the 2020 Food Waste Report (17), each day, on average, about a million people ate one meal per day outside their homes, totaling at around 426 million meals eaten outside the home over the course of the year, equaling about 500 thousand tons of food. Expenditure on food bought and consumed outside the home in 2020 was NIS 7.3 billion.
Total food waste in the institutional sector amounted to about 130 thousand tons, constituting a decrease of approximately 46% compared to 2019. The cost of the waste was about NIS 1.8 billion for the year, in addition to an environmental cost of around NIS 130 million (18)
About a third of the waste in institutional meals is rescuable, meaning that about 44 thousand tons of food can be rescued a year at a total value of approximately NIS 600 million, which is the equivalent of about 38 million meals per year on average.
Regularly, approximately 20% of the food consumed in Israel is served through institutional catering activity: meals served at factories, workplaces, the security forces (the military, police stations, and prisons), in hotels, catering halls, restaurants, schools, hospitals, etc (19). This sector, where many diners are gathered together in one location, holds the greatest potential for food rescue.
Food waste in institutional kitchens is an inevitable part of the economic activity of feeding a large number of diners and ensuring that the supply and variety of food meet their preferences, while taking into account inherent uncertainty factors.
In recent years, most institutional kitchens have transitioned to being operated by external companies with a high level of expertise in the field that work to maximize efficiency and reduce waste. However, in the catering field, plans cannot be made based on averages alone; enough food must also be provided on days when consumption is below average. This means catering companies need to factor in risks stemming from variance and not rely solely on statistical averages.
The analysis in the report shows that in general, waste tends to be higher in kitchens with a higher level of uncertainty regarding the number of diners. For example, at open IDF bases and workplaces, where there are accessible alternatives, food waste is higher than in schools and prisons, where there is less uncertainty regarding the number of meals that will be served.
Rate of Food Waste by Category of Institutional Consumption
In addition, the more varied the menu, the greater the amount of waste due to the uncertainty regarding diner preferences. Accordingly, the level of waste is higher at events and in hotels, which offer a wider variety of food options compared to workplaces, military bases, and police stations.
The way the food is served and who is paying for it also influence food waste. In restaurants, for example, where food is prepared only after it is ordered, there is less waste compared to buffet services, where food is prepared in advance. In other words, when consumers pay only according to their actual consumption there is less waste compared to the all-inclusive consumption method.
In this context, due to the Covid-19 crisis and social distancing, restaurants were forced to operate mainly through delivery and takeaway services, workplace cafeterias were closed, and workplaces that kept operating used the grab & go method, where workers took packaged food and did not eat in one centralized place. In addition, hotels changed the way they served food, from buffet service to room service in prepackaged portions. These changes also contributed to the reduction in food waste.
Estimated Food Waste in Institutional Consumption
The total amount of rescuable food in the institutional sector in 2020 is estimated at approximately NIS 570 million. The decrease in the amount compared to 2019 was caused by the effects of the Covid-19 crisis, which led to most of the activity in the institutional sector being shut down or greatly limited in scope. About half of the rescuable waste was in the security force bases and in events, where it is estimated that about 22 thousand tons of food valued at about NIS 280 million could have been rescued in 2020. Hotels, workplaces, and hospitals are also important rescue sources, from each of which food at a value of NIS 45–120 million could have been rescued in 2020. In the restaurant category the annual rescuable waste is valued at NIS 60 million. However, due to geographical dispersion and the lack of a critical mass, rescuing food from restaurants is generally not financially viable.
The high return on investment for food rescue in the institutional sector stems from the relatively high value of rescued meals, as well as the relatively low logistical cost of collecting food from large kitchens located in relative proximity to one another that are concentrated in city centers and industrial zones.