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Food Rescue Technical Assistance

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SPU and Safeway learned together how to cut food waste and improve donations of unsold, edible food to local food banks. These practices can apply to many grocery stores.

  • Food Rescue Bin Pilot: Standardization, Reuse, and Communication
    In 2022, SPU piloted recommendations from the 2021 Grocery Rescue Assessment with three Safeway stores and three Seattle food banks. Findings showed that by using a standardized donation bin, guiding employees on donation protocols, and strengthening communications with their food bank partners, the quality and quantity of donated food goes up while food waste goes down. The pilot also prototyped a bin reuse system to pick up, clean, and return the bins to the stores. More testing is needed to understand the costs and benefits of embedding this kind of reuse into the food rescue system. Download the report.

Partners researched, distilled, and clarified food rescue system opportunities.

  • Transportation (University of Washington)
    SPU hired the University of Washington Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center (SCTL) to identify how food rescue transportation logistics might be improved. The findings challenge a common assumption about food rescue in Seattle: that if only nonprofit hunger relief organizations had more trucks and drivers, the food rescue network could be more efficient. The UW found key supply chain gaps to address before efficiencies could be gained. Key findings suggested that food donors and hunger relief organizations should 1. consider collecting shared data (food, transportation, labor, and storage needs); 2. communicate based on this shared information; 3. conduct operations using standardized protocols; and 4. collaborate based on shared challenges and opportunities. Read the report, also listed in our Research Papers section.
  • Technology (Mayor Durkan's Innovation Advisory Council) 
    Given the lack of real-time, shared information across stakeholders, SPU explored how pre-existing software applications could provide open access information and potential efficiencies. Based on past feedback from Seattle nonprofits, SPU reviewed 37 food rescue apps to see if any would work for our local conditions. A local nonprofit used this initial information to begin developing a Seattle-based app. Learn more about the Mayor's IAC Project.
  • Grocery Donation Practices 
    SPU engaged with Northwest Food Alliance (NWFA) to assess grocery rescue operations at eight Seattle grocery store locations. Grocers are among the largest donors of surplus food. This project focused on how grocers could improve quality and quantity of donated food while reducing food and packaging waste. NWFA conducted extensive interviews, measured donated food and packaging across a ten-day period, observed donation protocols, and led discussions on how to improve outcomes for stores and the organizations who collect their donations. Download the summary or the full report.

Experts across diverse sectors busted myths, shared challenges, and started building relationships.

SPU has engaged over 80 stakeholders from over 50 organizations in a variety of ways, including Food Rescue Innovation Labs, Transportation Roundtables, one-on-one interviews, and small group discussions. Organizations such as Mary's Place helped put human dignity at the center of this work, while the Odessa Brown Clinic pointed to health disparities, and the University of Washington deepened discussions around transportation challenges embedded in collecting food. Throughout these convenings, participants across many sectors challenged assumptions, identified systemic barriers, and suggested opportunities for improving food rescue operations.

Studies and Reports

  • Food Rescue Bin Pilot (2022): Can food donation outcomes be improved by standardizing a food rescue/donation bin, guiding store employees with proper donation protocols, and strengthening communications with food banks? Does food waste decrease across food rescue operations as well? And would a service to pick up the used bin, clean it, and return it to stores increase overall success? Download the report to read our findings.
  • Grocery Food Rescue Assessment (2021): How might Seattle grocers strengthen food donation practices? Recommendations drawn from on-site observations and measurements from two Seattle grocers across eight locations by Northwest Food Alliance. Download the summary or the full report.
  • Food Rescue Transportation Study (2020): What can be learned from a supply chain view? Identifies key gaps to address before food rescue transportation efficiencies can be gained by the U.W. Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center. Download the UW Food Rescue Supply Chain PDF report, also listed in our Research Papers section.
  • Seattle Healthy Food Availability and Food Bank Network Report (2019): Pre-COVID-19 Pandemic findings about access to healthy food in Seattle and food banks' ability to meet needs. Download the Healthy Food Availability and Food Bank Network PDF Report.
  • Seattle Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Assessment (2016): How can Seattle prevent and rescue more food from the commercial sector? Recommendations based on interviews with Seattle businesses, hunger relief organizations, and public agencies by the U.W. Center for Public Health Nutrition. Download the Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Assessment PDF Report.


Policies, Partnerships and Tools

Learn about Washington state, West Coast, and U.S. plans and partnerships to cut food waste. These efforts are driving toward national policies and regional collaboration which could support Seattle’s work to cut food waste. Here are links to the project sites to learn more and get engaged.

  • Use Food Well Washington
    Washington state adopted the goal of cutting food waste by 50% by 2030 (in line with global, national, and regional goals). The Use Food Well Washington (UFWW) Plan provides recommendations on how the State will achieve 50% by preventing, rescuing, and composting uneaten food.
  • Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment
    SPU joined the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment (PCFWC)- an initiative of the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC) - to work with food businesses in reaching the goal of reducing wasted food by 50% by 2030. The PCFWC is a public-private partnership that includes the states of Washington, Oregon, and California, King and Alameda counties, and the cities of Vancouver (BC), Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. Technical expertise comes from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), ReFED (Rethink Food Waste through Economics and Data) and Cascadia Policy Solutions. Businesses who join this collaboration sign onto a voluntary agreement to:

    • Support and play a part in achieving the 50% food waste reduction by 2030
    • Annually measure and report food waste reduction data for ongoing analysis
    • Take actions to reduce food waste, with an emphasis on prevention-related solutions
  • US Food Loss and Waste Plan
    SPU has endorsed this policy document which recommends five key action areas for the Biden administration and Congress to help reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. This plan was developed by ReFED, The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, Natural Resources Defense Council, and WWF.
  • Roadmap to 2030: Reducing US Food Waste by 50%. Read the Roadmap to 2030 PDF report.
  • Insights Engine to explore US and Washington data and solutions


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Address: 700 5th Avenue, Suite 4900, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34018, Seattle, WA, 98124-5177
Phone: (206) 684-3000

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Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is comprised of three major direct-service providing utilities: the Water Utility, the Drainage and Wastewater Utility, and the Solid Waste Utility.