Solution 1: Measure, Track, and Save

Why Solution 1?

The most important part of the food recovery hierarchy is preventing food waste. Tracking your food waste makes you more aware of your habits and able to make strategic decisions going forward. 

MEASURE.

TRACK.

SAVE.

Sophisticated food waste tracking systems often cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, and these prices are difficult to manage for the many small businesses in Maine. We strive to provide a simplified, but free tracking program for Maine businesses to begin their food waste tracking journey.

image of food recovery hierarchy
The Food Recovery Hierarchy

Waste tracking is the best way to reduce waste in the United States.- with a food and cost saving potential for the state being around 68,000 tons of food; or, at minimum, 82.6 million dollars annually.

– ReFED

By just tracking and reducing your waste where possible, we promise to recoup between 2 and 8% of food costs

LeanPath, a private food tracking company


Solution 1 Pilots:

Pilot 1: Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center

Project Goals: 

  • To determine what foods were creating the most kitchen and plate waste in their facility

  • To reduce the money they were spending both on purchasing food and disposing of food that is not eaten, by developing a better knowledge of their waste

  • To develop strategies in the kitchen and with the residents in order to reduce food waste

Methodology:

  1. Conducted an on-site visit at the facility to see and understand how their operation works

  2. Understand what their personal goals are. The Department of Corrections was focused on pre-consumer waste because during Covid, residents were taking their food back to their cells to eat.

  3. Create the customized worksheets for their kitchen. Here, data was collected on a simple “pen-and-paper” food waste tracker. 

  4. The facility would then take daily measurements and then at the end of the week, these data sheets were sent to our student intern to input into an excel spreadsheet. This helped with data accuracy, labor shortages at the facility, and with adjusting data inconsistencies.

  5. After 6 weeks, we meet with the facility again and show them their report. 

The Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center Kitchen Waste was measured from 10/4/2021 to 12/2/2021 

Results: 

Working with the Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center in Windham, we helped to track their kitchen waste for their approximately 100 meals served each day for two months, and helped her identify what parts of her kitchen were producing the most fixable waste.

Data Tracking System Used by Southern Maine Women's Reentry Center

Pilot 2: Maine State Prison and Bolduc Correctional Facility

After finishing our pilot with the reentry facility in Windham, we again partnered with the DOC to track food waste at the Maine State Prison and Bolduc Correctional facility, jumping from one facility of around 50 residents to two facilities with a total of around 830 residents. 

Project Goals: 

  • To determine what foods were creating the most kitchen and plate waste in their facility

  • To reduce the money they were spending both on purchasing food and disposing of food that is not eaten, by developing a better knowledge of their waste

  • To develop strategies in the kitchen and with the residents in order to reduce food waste

  • To expand our work in the Windham Women’s Center and improve our tracker’s usability for larger facilities

Methodology:

  1. Conducted an on-site visit at the facility to see and understand how their operation works

  2. Understand what their personal goals are. The Department of Corrections was focused on pre-consumer waste because during Covid, residents were taking their food back to their cells to eat.

  3. Create the customized worksheets for their kitchen. Because of the difference in size of these two locations, the Maine State Prison decided to track their data through an online spreadsheet, while the Bolduc Correctional Facility opted for a more traditional “pen-and-paper” method. 

  4. The facility would then take daily measurements and then at the end of the week, these data sheets were sent to our student intern to input into an excel spreadsheet. This helped with data accuracy, labor shortages at the facility, and with adjusting data inconsistencies.

  5. After 6 weeks, we meet with the facility again and show them their report. 

Maine State Prison Kitchen Waste was measured from 1/23/2022 to 4/1/2022, while Plate Waste Was measured from 3/20/2022 to 3/29/2022

Bolduc Correctional Facility Kitchen and Plate Waste was measured from 1/23/2022 to  3/23/2022

Results: 

Using an updated tracker, we’ve helped the two facilities to reduce food waste by approximately 20%, saving the DOC around $20,000 annually if they maintain their reduction in food waste. Several culinary directors within the DOC have also made their own food menu that incorporates an option to reuse leftovers, which will reduce their waste even further.

Data Tracking System Used by Bolduc Correctional Facility
Data Tracking System Used by Maine State Prison

The following graphs are templates(with randomized data) of the insights that you could have after a six week tracking program. 


pie graph explaining the results of the Maine DOC tracking system
Food Waste Tracking Data Template
graph explaining the results of the Maine DOC tracking system
Food Waste Tracking Data Template



graph explaining the results of the Maine DOC tracking system
Food Waste Tracking Data Template

Solution 1 Tools & Resources: 

  1. Business Tracker

  2. Consumer Tracker

For help developing or using this business tracker, use the contact form below!

Want to Get in Touch with Us?

Want to get involved? Take a moment to fill out this quick form so that someone from the Food Rescue MAINE program can reach out to you.
  • Please select the box above that best applies to you so that we may better assist you in your food rescue goals!

Consumer Tracker:

After working with the Maine Department of Corrections, we decided very quickly that tracking needed to be available for Maine on the residential level as well. Using the home tracker linked here, you can reduce your own waste to stretch your budget while helping the environment. We are excited to start developing a pilot program to test this resource soon!



Solution 1 Challenge Spotlight

How can I track my food waste if I have a labor shortage or cannot afford the extra hours?

With much of Maine being made up of small businesses, business owners often come to us wanting to track their food waste, but they do not think they have the capacity to do so.  But it is not more cost effective to keep wasting the food.  It’s actually proven that it is worth taking the time to track the food you waste- it improves employee engagement and saves money in the long term through great results.

Tracking is not a long-term project. Tracking your food waste for just six weeks can give you the data that you need to create a strategy for better utilizing the resources you have moving forward. 

The best part about the food waste tracker is that it is entirely customizable to your needs. After meeting with you, we can work together on a plan to make your tracking as simple or complex as your business needs.


“If you’re interested in reducing your restaurant’s food waste and related costs and would like to see how we can help, please email us at foodrescuemaine@maine.edu, explains Fitzmaurice. “It’s a smart way to save money, help feed your community, and protect Maine’s natural resources – all at the same time!”

-Ryan Fitzmaurice, Mitchell Center Student Intern

Picture of FRM intern, Ryan Fitzmaurice, and a representative from the Windham DOC
Ryan Fitzmaurice, Student Intern, with Windham DOC