Waste not, spend not

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Courtesy of Security Shredding & Storage News

It is estimated in American health care that 40 to 100 thousand out of every million dollars spent on food gets thrown away before it’s even served. What’s tossed from the plate further fattens the waste pot. With food costs up almost 10 percent this year, the statistics can be hard to digest.

Nancy Darbut, Director of food and nutrition services for the North Memorial Hospital in Minneapolis Minnesota, offers this analogy to wasting food: “You might as well take the dollars out of your wallet and throw them into your garbage can because that’s what you’re doing when you throw away food.”

In 2006 Darbut and her team embarked on a journey to better food management with LeanPath, a Portland Oregon-based consulting and technology development company, who showed the crew at North Memorial just how significant food waste can be. With little effort the hospital has been trimming waste and saving money ever since.

LeanPath’s strategy is built into the “Valu waste” program and its motto: “Don’t let food trash your bottom line.” The recipe is simple: Every ounce of wasted food gets weighed and analyzed, every employee weighs, and everyone participates in the process of imagining a better end for otherwise wasted food.

“It’s a real treat to work with something that’s so creative,” says a sincere Darbut.

LeanPath found its way to North Memorial through Aramark Healthcare, the service management company that employs Darbut. Together Aramark and LeanPath piloted several programs across the country. Andrew Shakman, president and CEO of LeanPath says the crew at North Memorial was “exceptional.”

“The program is about culture and team. It’s about changing behavior. They took it seriously and they took it seriously to get the team involved,” says Shakman.

A veteran of the food service industry Darbut has always prided herself on knowing everything there was to know about food waste, but she says her newfound awareness has transformed her own thinking and translated into huge savings.

“Everybody in every restaurant does work on food waste, it’s something you just do. But we really learned a lot of new things. We really became involved because it’s such a clever program. In the mean time we saved $50,000 in just one year,” she says.

Almost three years later, employees at North Memorial continue the daily routine of weighing in all the dropped hamburgers, spoiled milk, seemingly useless bread ends, soggy noodles, cold coffee and every other ounce of waste. With the help of LeanPath’s technology and support, the hospital staff continues to analyze their data and re-think their approach to food service.

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