New Sustainable Market Opportunities for Surplus Food: A Food System-Sensitive Methodology (FSSM)


An important way to address global food security is to make better use of the food already produced. Since at least one third of global food is wasted before consumption, there are enormous incentives to cut this waste and create a more sustainable food system. This paper focuses upon saving food loss at the supermarket level in the US and channeling this food stream in new and efficient ways to those in hunger. A more comprehensive Food System-Sensitive Methodology has been used to pilot and evaluate a surplus food management program that diverts culled fresh fruits and vegetables from grocery stores that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills. Instead, produce is processed for donation or for new businesses. Nearly 35,000 pounds of produce was culled from a grocery store chain in Philadelphia. Twenty-five percent of this was not suitable for culinary uses, ten percent consisted of relatively small quantities of food that did not warrant further research, and about 33 percent is suitable for use at area food shelters and pantries. An experimental sample taken from the remaining 15,000 pounds was used for recipe research and development for diversion to new commercial enterprises. We analyzed a scenario where a supermarket receives $0.25 per pound for culled produce, generating about $8700 dollars in average monthly revenue while eliminating disposal costs. New commercial possibilities for the unused food were then explored. The scenario included community-based enterprises that could process the produce into value-added products that could be wholesaled back to the store at sufficient profits to support 2 - 4 community employees. Extrapolating these results to the approximately 38,000 large supermarkets in the United States suggests that much of the 1,100,000,000 pounds of produce that is currently sent to landfills can be repurposed. If diverted to new foods each of the 46.1 million SNAP recipients could figuratively receive an equivalent of 24 pounds of fruit and vegetable products per annum. This initial analysis suggests that repurposing surplus produce from supermarket discards can have significant beneficial outcomes for new food markets and the environment.

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O’Donnell, T. , Deutsch, J. , Yungmann, C. , Zeitz, A. and Katz, S. (2015) New Sustainable Market Opportunities for Surplus Food: A Food System-Sensitive Methodology (FSSM). Food and Nutrition Sciences, 6, 883-892. doi: 10.4236/fns.2015.610093.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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