Food Waste and Food Rescue in the Institutional Sector
According to the 2021 Food Waste Report (17), an average of 2 million people dined outside the home in Israel, eating an average of one meal per day, totaling 650 million meals outside the home a year, approximately 720,000 tons of food. The expenditure on food purchased and consumed outside the home is currently NIS 13 billion annually.
The total amount of food waste from the institutional sector amounted to 215,000 tons, representing an increase of 65% over 2020 but a decrease of 9% compared to 2019. The value of this waste is approximately NIS 3.5 billion per year, in addition to the environmental cost estimated at NIS 235 million (18).
About a third from the waste in the institutional sector is rescuable (19), meaning that 71,000 tons of food can be rescued a year at a total value exceeding one billion shekels, which is the equivalent of about 63 million meals per year on average.
Annual Food Waste in the Institutional Sector, 1000 tons/year, Recovery of the Sector from the Covid-19 Crisis
Generally, 20% of the food consumed in Israel is served through institutional catering activities, such as meals served at factories, workplaces, the security forces (the military, police stations, and prisons), hotels, catering halls, restaurants, schools, hospitals, etc (20). 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 unpredictable variables.
In recent years, most catering kitchens have transitioned to being operated by external companies with a high level of expertise in the field that focuses on maximizing efficiency and reducing waste. Moreover, the Covid-19 crisis has led to a change in how some caterers serve meals, and this has led to a reduction in waste. The Covid-19 crisis also led to the expansion of remote work in the economy (21), and to a reduction in the activity of workplace kitchens, which reduced the amount of waste.
Rate of Food Waste by Category of Institutional Consumption
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, food waste is higher than in schools and prisons, where there is less uncertainty regarding the number of meals that will be served.
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 also influences the amount of 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.
Estimated Food Waste in the Institutional Sector
The total amount of rescuable food in the institutional sector in 2021 is estimated at approximately NIS 1.1 billion. The increase in the amount compared to 2020 was caused by the return of the economy rather than its limited activity in 2020, due to the Covid-19 crisis. About one-quarter of rescuable waste is from catering establishments, where we estimate approximately 20,000 tons of food, valued at about NIS 430 million, could have been rescued in 2021. Bases of the security forces, hotels, and workplaces, are also important rescue sources, from each division food valued at NIS 110–190 million could have been rescued in 2021. From hospitals, food valued at about NIS 60 million could have been rescued and from restaurants, where there is a high rate of waste, food worth approximately NIS 140 million could be rescued annually. However, due to geographical dispersion and the lack of centralization of establishments, 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.