Training the Next Generation of Chefs and Culinary Professionals to Reduce Food Waste

food waste

When the James Beard Foundation (JBF), with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, sought out culinary instructors and professors to help design and implement a curriculum to inspire a new generation of chefs and culinary professionals to substantially reduce food waste, Drexel’s Center for Food & Hospitality stepped up to the plate.

Sixty-three million tons of food, valued at $218 billion, is wasted annually in the United States, according to research conducted by ReFED, a nonprofit, powered by an influential network of the nation’s leading business, nonprofit, foundation and government leaders committed to reducing U.S. food waste. Of that, one third is wasted by restaurants and commercial foodservice businesses.

“Drexel, as an urban university committed to civic engagement, sees food waste as a challenge facing our neighbors, the region and society as a whole,” said Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, a professor in the Center for Food & Hospitality and founder of Drexel’s Food Lab. The JBF appointed Deutsch as the the inaugural JBF Impact Program Fellow. As a member of the JBF Impact Program team, Deutsch will oversee the development, pilot and national roll-out of a program aimed at reducing food waste.

The program will pilot a professional development curriculum around food waste reduction that is intended for culinary educators working across a wide range of programs including technical schools, community colleges and four-year universities. The program will offer skills training, values exchange and the curricular tools needed to inspire current and future generations of culinary students to minimize waste. 

“Recovering would-be food waste and transforming it into an item people would purchase and eat will create revenue, jobs and ultimately create a more sustainable food system,” said Deutsch. “I’m honored to have been selected as a James Beard Foundation Impact Program Fellow. Food product design and innovation that can help solve real-world food system problems, is foundational to what we do at Drexel. It should be an issue that is top-of-mind for today’s chefs and those of tomorrow.”

Aside from Deutsch’s appointment as fellow, Drexel University will collaborate with other schools including New York University, The Academy of Culinary Arts, Boston University and Colorado State University, among others. Rosemary Trout, Culinary Arts & Food Science program director and assistant clinical professor, will lead Drexel’s collaboration with the other peer institutes regarding topics such as curriculum development, piloting lessons, assessment of student and instructor feedback and refining of the curriculum.

“Drexel, the Center, our students and faculty are uniquely positioned to contribute to the James Beard Foundation’s mission to reduce food waste among chefs, restaurants and culinary professionals across the United States,” said Trout. “We need to take a look at how we can better feed America and best preserve resources that many Americans have little of, or are completely without. This is an ongoing conversation about impacting real change – and we are eager to work with JBF and our peers to find solutions to food waste.” 

Drexel’s focus on interdisciplinary research brings together students studying Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Nutrition, and Food Science with those students studying with industry leaders and faculty in Public Health, Law and engineering. Interdisciplinary cooperation positions students to address their challenges with a wider scope of solution rather than looking simply through the lens of their chosen specialty. 

 To learn more about the James Beard Foundation’s pilot program to reduce waste, click here.