Kylie Johns, Contributing Writer

One-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted every year in America. As stated in the Guardian, approximately 45 percent of all fruits and vegetables, 35 percent of fish and seafood, 30 percent of cereals, and 20 percent of meat and dairy products are wasted by suppliers, retailers and consumers every year. One way corporations and restaurants contribute to this waste is their own high cosmetic standards for fruits and vegetables. This unintentional practice results in rejecting fresh fruits and vegetables for being remotely imperfect looking.

All you can eat buffets are also a focal point in America’s food waste issue. Customers are lured in with cheap prices and the idea of eating all they care to. With this large quantity of food naturally comes waste. Specialists from Ideo had an idea to try and measure exactly how much food was consumed or repurposed as opposed to being thrown away. Results showed guests only ate about half of what was put out on the line.

We see how accurate this statement is at the Landmark Buffet at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles. The Landmark’s chef Scott said, “It would be better to run out of food in an a la carte restaurant versus a buffet style restaurant. You don’t want to over produce, but you also do not want to run out, and if you have someone who pays for the entire buffet and came for something specific, and we ran out of it, then we have an issues [sic], which puts stress on our customers and our staff.”

The chef goes on to explain that although some things have to be refilled, some may never even be touched or restocked. Therefore, the extras that are prepared in advance are almost always thrown out.

“The food that is thrown out the most are the things that tend to take the longest to cook, such as mashed potatoes and the meats,” says Scott.

So, why is leftover food not donated?

In 1996, a law was passed to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to nonprofit organizations. This act passed by President Clinton protects you from liability should the product donated harm the recipient. However, the Ameristar Casino and Resort chooses to throw out their leftover product as a convenience instead, rather than endure the administrative nightmare.

In order to be able to donate the excess food from the buffet lines, one would have to keep call logs for every type of food. The next step would be to take the appropriate steps in heating/cooling the food to make it safe enough to eat. Then finding storage space and reliable transportation to deliver the food.

While other large restaurant chains such as Olive Garden, Pizza Hut and Panera have been making strides to combat food waste in America, we are still a long way away from being a zero-waste country.