About 30-40% of food in the US is wasted, according to USDA, which takes a heavy toll on water consumption and carbon emissions. As consumers grow more conscious about the sustainability and environmental impact of food choices, restaurants and retailers are responding. Chef Jehangir Mehta, owner of NYC restaurants Graffiti Earth and Me & You, is a leading authority on increasing sustainability and reducing food waste in the foodservice sector.
Peanuts are a natural fit for sustainability and reducing waste because they’re a zero-waste crop. From water to fertilizer, peanuts require fewer and fewer resources to grow. Nutrient-rich peanut plant hay is tilled back into the soil or fed to livestock. Peanut oil is used in commercial products and as biodiesel. Peanut flour and powder are culinary ingredients packed with nutrition and flavor.
Here’s how Chef Mehta advises tackling the challenge of waste in the foodservice industry, and how peanuts can play a role.
Buy ingredients that have the most utility for your operation. A recipe that calls for one specific type of chili that has five-pound minimum order may leave you with three pounds of extra. Is there a pepper you’re already using in other dishes that you could substitute with? Peanut butter is extremely versatile because it can be used in almost any dish and at any daypart—from a morning smoothie to an evening sandwich or wrap.
Create Value-Added Extras & Market Sustainability
When breakfast service leaves you with unused bacon, eggs and oatmeal, you can utilize them at lunch. Add bacon to a pizza, use the eggs in a stir-fry and make an oatmeal cookie. Incentivize customers to reduce food waste by offering a smaller pizza and a peanut butter oatmeal cookie for a few dollars less than other menu items. You’ll save or make more money in the long run.
Chef Mehta uses vegetable scraps to make flavorful soups which are promoted as #EatMyCompost. He also uses empty peanut shells instead of wood chips to smoke peanut-stuffed mushrooms. For veggie burgers, you can use peanuts instead of breadcrumbs to add flavor, fiber and more plant-based protein.
Encourage Mindful Eating
Eating nourishes the body and the brain. By serving diners with reusable plates, glasses and silverware instead of disposable, you encourage them to eat more slowly and appreciate the food that’s been prepared for them. Your customers won’t waste food by eating too quickly, going back for more or getting hungry again sooner.
For recipes and more ways to reduce food waste, visit nationalpeanutboard.org. For more about peanut sustainability, visit peanutvision.org.