Seattle is one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, presenting both opportunities and challenges for food waste. An estimated 94,500 tons of food from Seattle businesses end up in compost bins or landfills each year—some of it edible food that simply never got sold at restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, schools or dining facilities. Meantime, members of our community remain food insecure. It makes sense for food to feed people rather than become waste.
This is why Seattle Public Utilities continues to support efforts toward food rescue, where edible food that would otherwise enter the waste stream is gleaned from local businesses and re-distributed to local food programs. SPU has joined other cities, states, and regional coalitions in committing to cutting food waste by 50 percent from 2015 by 2030, leading with prevention and rescue.
Since 2018, SPU has engaged more than 80 stakeholders from 50-plus organizations in a Food Rescue Innovation Initiative—a collaborative effort to better understand food rescue challenges and explore potential solutions. The initiative surfaced transportation and logistics as one of the key challenges.
To that end, SPU asked the University of Washington Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center (SCTL) to conduct foundational research into the logistics of food rescue in Seattle. This research forms part of SPU’s broader work to identify barriers to making food rescue operations in Seattle as effective and efficient as possible—and work toward solutions to overcome those barriers with both the private and public sector. The SCTL research includes interviews with a representative cross-section of food suppliers, food bank agencies, meal program providers and nonprofit partners.
With this document, SPU seeks to inform the myriad businesses that donate food (and by doing so, reduce their waste costs); the wide range of nonprofit hunger relief partners who collect and redistribute donated food to community members in need; local government; and locally based companies with supply chain logistics expertise that could contribute solutions to this complex puzzle.
Urban Freight Lab (2020). Improving Food Rescue in Seattle: What Can Be Learned from a Supply Chain View?