Lean path program helps reduces food waste at St. Luke's Magic Valley

Published: Feb. 21, 2018 at 3:50 PM MST
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St. Luke's Magic Valley has a food waste prevention program where they weigh food scraps and leftovers to try and cut back on the excess they may not need.

Executive Chef Mark Owsley at the hospital said since they started the program in 2015, they've saved $300,000.

"Since we started this, we're saving about 2,000 pounds a month. That's quite a bit of food if you look at it," he said.

The machine is set up in the back of the cafeteria, where food is prepped. The Lean Path Program comes with a scale, camera that takes a photo of the food and a machine that measures how much is weighed and wasted.

"What happens is they'll take pictures of what they're throwing away, and then we can check on the computer and see pictures of it the next day," he said. "I will also get an email that lets me know that anything over $10 has been thrown away."

Once an item is weighed, it gives information on how much it weighs, how much that is valued at and how much money they've wasted if they continue to discard the food everyday for a year.

Anthony Carrillo, a sous chef at the hospital, weighed a container full of fruit trimmings. Operators who use the machine have to select what exactly they're throwing away and what kind of container it's in to subtract that from the actual weight so it'll only weigh what's inside the container.

"It's telling us we have 21 and a half pounds of waste, which is giving us a value of $6.23 for this transaction. ... If I do this everyday with this amount it'll be $2,274 at the end of the year," Carrillo explained as he weighed the fruit trimmings.

Owsley said the food still gets thrown away after it's weighed, but from then on, they'll know what they should cut back on in the future.

"Cents turn into hundreds of dollars, and that's just for one product. That makes me aware and wow, maybe if it's soup and I have three gallons left over, I adjust that and make only three gallons less for the next time and it kind of reduces our waste," he said.

Owsley said all food gets weighed before it's thrown out, and only food and nutrition employees in the cafeteria can use the machine, which also turns into a competition for them.

"Everyday, it'll show who is the top performer using the machine and also, there's a thing that pops up twice a week that there's a winner," Owsley said.

He said it incentivizes the employees to use the machine more frequently, and winners get a discounted meal in the cafeteria.

"It's a really good awareness tool for all the employees for how much we're going to throw away," he said.

Food that is weighed out can range from food production from the cafe or even expired containers of salads.

"We've cut well over 50 percent amount of our waste on food since we started this," Owsley said.