With the holiday season in full swing, many food businesses across Philadelphia have kicked service into full gear, preparing for a productive end to the calendar year. Along with the spike in food service comes a rise in food waste across the City and the greater need to reduce that waste. SBN’s Food Saver Challenge is helping to address this need. SBN was motivated to create the challenge, given that food waste comprises nearly 25% of Philadelphia’s total waste stream. The resulting negative impacts on environmental and food security outcomes are entirely preventable. Launched in September 2023, the Food Saver Challenge has allowed SBN to aid nine local food businesses in their efforts to reduce, redistribute, or compost excess food waste. With the help of partners at Bennett Compost, Circle Compost, Drexel Food Lab, ClearCOGS, Sharing Excess, and Philly Food Share, participating businesses have found a greater incentive to incorporate low-waste solutions into their everyday business practices and continue to do so as the challenge goes on.
The nine businesses selected to participate in the Food Saver Challenge include Reading Terminal Market, Bar Hygge, Old City Coffee, Philly Foodworks, Philadelphia Catering Company, Crust Vegan Bakery, High Fidelity Bakery, Mariposa Food Co-op, and LUHV Food. Over the past few months, SBN has been able to peek into each business’s unique strategies for reducing food waste.
Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market (RTM), one of Philadelphia’s major food attractions, has joined the challenge to focus more on sustainability within the market and among vendors. During a site visit to the market, Layla El Tannir, RTM’s Director of Business Development, shared more about the current practices they have in place to reduce food waste, including Iovine juices made from organics, food donations and sharing excess food among vendors. Layla also shared the market’s plans to implement more strategies during the challenge, like composting.
Old City Coffee
At Old City Coffee, owner Ruth Isaac Treatman gave SBN a look into the business’ methods for preventing food waste from hitting the landfills. Composting coffee grounds and giving leftover food to staff are a couple of the practices the business has implemented in the past, that continue to decrease the amount of food added to the city’s waste stream. Old City Coffee also plans to find repurposing solutions to prevent waste from the start.
Since its opening in 2016, Bar Hygge has revolved around sustainable business practices. From walls and furniture made from recycled materials to “family meals” made from leftover food, owner Peggy Zwerver stresses the importance of maintaining an earth-friendly business. Bar Hygge was also a previous participant in Philly’s Food Waste Business Challenge in 2020.
Crust Vegan Bakery
Crust Vegan Bakery, a small yet thriving bakery located in Manayunk, is another Philadelphia food business created with the earth in mind. Crust’s owner Meagan Benz affirms that they are always looking for sustainable alternatives within the bakery. Some of the more unique practices here include repurposing solutions that turn unsellable baked goods into delicious new recipes like cookie pie crust, and brownie bits ice cream toppings.
High Fidelity Bakery
High Fidelity Bakery is another small food business that has focused on food waste prevention from the start. Owner Brady Hatin informed SBN of his previous experience working in the food industry, which has provided him with the knowledge needed to start his own sustainable business. Brady and the High Fidelity team are focused on reducing waste by pre-ordering based on weekly demand and repurposing unused products.
Another Food Saver Challenge participating business prioritizes sustainability while providing for Philadelphia communities. Dylan Baird and Milka Lopez of Philly Foodworks share that sustainable food production and disposal are at the heart of the business. Not only are they maintaining a low food waste mindset by preventing and repurposing 95% of food, but they also have incorporated low-waste packaging strategies to decrease their ecological footprint even more. Reusing and repurposing unused food products and packaging is a daily occurrence at the facility. Philly Foodworks is also building an in-house kitchen, which will be the center for new food repurposing solutions.
Philadelphia Catering Company
The Philadelphia Catering Company is another participating business actively working to decrease food waste and find other effective environmental solutions to incorporate within their business. Ian Casey, the company’s self-proclaimed “Green Tzar,” gave SBN a look into their creative food waste reduction methods, such as donating waste to local farms for animal feed and working with their dietician interns to find new recipes. They have also tested other environmentally friendly practices like solar panels and certified compostable packaging. Last month, the PCC also received the Metro Philly Award for Best Catering Company in the Philadelphia area.
Mariposa Food Co-op
At Mariposa Food Co-op in Kingsessing, keeping food fresh and edible is crucial for reducing food waste in their grocery store. Mariposa prioritizes selling produce close to expiration to hopefully ensure that perfectly palatable groceries are eaten rather than treated as waste. They are also implementing ordering strategies that enable them to sell imperfect and low-shelf products to keep them from being prematurely disposed of. The food co-op also partners with Bennett Compost to extend the life of organic waste.
LUHV Food is a 100% vegan bistro and grocery store with locations in Point Breeze, Center City, and Hatboro, PA. Owner Silvia Lucci and LUHV staff are dedicated to providing high-quality vegan food to the Philadelphia area while maintaining sustainability within the business. LUHV sources most of its ingredients from local and organic farms and uses 100% compostable packaging. Silvia also shared with SBN that LUHV’s Point Breeze location has added a community fridge to decrease food waste while providing food for everyone in the community.
If you are interested in learning more about the Food Saver Challenge or donating to support SBN’s efforts to build a just, green, and thriving economy in Philadelphia, please visit our website. SBN wishes you a wonderful holiday season and reminds you to find your own creative ways to reduce food waste at home during the holidays.