The right message and the right connection help reduce food waste

Screen shot of manjia.org.

Food waste is an extreme burden on our society. In the United States alone, 40% of food produced is wasted. The most common reasons for food waste are transportation and storage difficulties. In the United States the loss of food comes mostly from restaurants and personal food use. As Americans we are spoiled and used to purchasing our food at its peak. If our food is at all tainted, we tend to throw it away.

Between 30% and 40% of food is wasted per month in the United States. The entire food process and moving food from production to our homes takes up about 10% of the U.S. energy budget. It is clear that reducing food waste will not only create mass monetary savings within our food industry but also reduce our carbon footprint and better the health of our communities.

To do my part, I began working with Manjia, a non-profit whose goal is to reduce food waste. I figured that getting businesses to donate leftover foods would be an easy sell. To my surprise, not every restaurant, catering company, or business was willing to sign up with Manjia and reduce their food waste. They were either hesitant to sign up for a resource which they had never heard of before or they did not seem to believe that they created enough waste to use Manjia’s services.

I began developing a “pitch” that I used when I cold called or emailed potential donors. In the pitch, I included statistics about the impact food waste has on the environment, social inequalities, and the economy. By targeting three pillars rather than only one, I was more successful in my food donor search. Every business is fueled by a different set of values. Some were more willing to sign up for Manjia when they heard about the impact food waste had on the environment, or when they heard about how they could help their local community. Most companies also were inclined to sign up when I mentioned that the donation could be as small as a single sandwich or as large as an entire buffet. Plus, they are not in charge of transport. 

My experience with Manjia has led me to understand that people value sustainability for different reasons. For some people or companies the incentive to joining Manjia is environmental concern and for others there is a social justice concern. When calling potential food donors I try to give a general pitch that highlights the environmental, social justice, and economic benefit to Manjia and to living sustainably. As I get to know the potential client better, I tailor my approach to whatever lens of sustainability seems to appeal to them the most.

All of the potential clients that I speak to are in the food industry, but their similarities often end there. Understanding the different pillars of sustainability is crucial for communicating its importance to others. Incentive is everything when it comes to spreading the message of sustainability.

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