Welcome to Table Scraps, a monthly series on the growing problem of food waste and what some eateries, officials, farms, institutes, and everyday people are doing right. This isn’t a guilt trip, just a way to unpack initiatives attempting to reduce kitchen waste and food loss, as more than 40 percent of all food is wasted in the U.S. We’re exploring backyard composting to city programs, restaurant tips to technology, and anything related to this global issue. Heat up those leftovers, and settle in.
Arizona has a few statewide grocery chains that aim to be environmentally friendly — and community-friendly —with their unsellable food products. We’re talking here about the big boys: Sprouts Farmers Market, Fry’s Food Stores, and Bashas' Family of Stores (which includes Food City and AJ’s Fine Foods). Let's take a look at their efforts when it comes to food waste and sustainability.
Sprouts Farmers Market
Sprouts is where you go for your more natural, plant-based, and organic food products, including local produce found in its celebrated bulk-bin area. The first Sprouts store opened in Chandler in 2002, and the brand has grown to nearly 300 locations across 20 states. But its headquarters remain in the Valley.
Sprouts is shooting for zero waste — meaning, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, a 90 percent waste diversion rate. And they’re creeping up on it, too. In 2019, the company diverted 50 percent, or 150 million pounds of food and other recyclables, from its waste stream. That's material that would otherwise have gone to the landfill.
Each location also participates in a food waste diversion program with trickle-down steps of food, feed, field. The first wave of edible-but-unsellable food products is donated to area hunger relief agencies. The program has donated more than 70 million pounds of food since its start in 2013. The second wave of food, if it’s not a fit for the Food Rescue Program, is given as cattle feed to local ranches. Finally, in the third tier, food is donated as compost to area farms. Since this started in 2014, more than 25 million pounds of food have been diverted.
Fry’s Food Stores
Fry’s Food Stores is headquartered in the southwest Valley, and it’s been around since 1960. As a division of The Kroger Co., Fry’s is part of the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste plan, meaning it’s set to eliminate the stores’ food waste by 2025. In 2019, Daddy Kroger as a whole says it diverted 44.7 percent of food waste from landfills. It also reduced its total food waste footprint from 332,212 tons in 2017 to 288,966 tons by 2019.
This was achieved through a few food waste programs. Kroger has a four-step trickle-down effect with unsellable food products — feed people, feed animals, find industrial uses, then compost. With industrial uses, they mean food waste and wastewater is being converted through anaerobic digestion into renewable energy in California and Indiana.
Forty percent of food waste happens at the household level, though, and us ordinary bozos can also join the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative. Kroger provides food waste reduction tips for the average kitchen. In addition, Kroger stamps its products with standardized date labeling — “Use by” for food safety and “Best by” for product quality. More ways for us to keep it tight in our own homes.
You can check out Kroger's 2020 Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) report here.
Finally, Bashas’ — a family-owned local grocery chain, first founded in 1932 in Goodyear, which also includes Food City and AJ’s Fine Foods — keeps its environmental efforts simple. The store has been recycling since the '70s, and 100 percent of Bashas’ private-label large dozen eggs have been converted to cage-free since late 2017. It’s also is committed to offering 100 percent cage-free eggs in all its store formats by end of 2025.
Bashas’ Family of Stores also has a Grocery Rescue Program. According to a spokesperson for the Bashas’ Family of Stores, the initiative works in collaboration with all the major food banks throughout the state affiliated with Feeding America — a nationwide nonprofit organization — to ensure minimum food waste. Bashas’, Food City, and AJ’s Fine Foods donate unsellable items like bread, pastries, and tortillas, as well as all sorts of packaged items.
Editor’s note: This article was updated from its original version.