Hannaford Supermarkets announces reduced food waste program

  • During a press conference at the Manchester Hannaford Supermarket on Wednesday, Hannaford officials demonstrated how the chain of markets has been able to reduce its food waste to zero, through local donations and partnership with Agri-Cylce, which uses food waste as an energy source. Courtesy photo

  • During a press conference in at the Manchester Hannaford Supermarket on Wednesday, Hannaford officials demonstrated how the chain of markets has been able to reduce its food waste to zero, through local donations and partnership with Agri-Cylce, which uses food waste as an energy source. Courtesy photo—

  • During a press conference in at the Manchester Hannaford Supermarket on Wednesday, Hannaford officials demonstrated how the chain of markets has been able to reduce its food waste to zero, through local donations and partnership with Agri-Cylce, which uses food waste as an energy source. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/22/2021 1:21:22 PM

Just in time for Earth Day, Hannaford Supermarkets has announced each of its 183 stores – including its Rindge location – is now donating or diverting all food at risk of going to waste, eliminating sending any food to landfills.

The goal of eliminating food waste isn’t new for the chain, said George Parmenter, the health and sustainability lead for Hannaford Supermarkets in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript on Tuesday. The chain has long worked with local food pantries and food banks to get viable food into the community, and with local farmers to provide food for livestock feed.

“Food waste is a big problem,” Parmenter said.

About 30 percent of all food produced gets lost somewhere along the line, Parmenter said. And it’s not just the food that is wasted – the labor, water, time and transportation put into producing the food and getting it to the public are also wasted.

“When food is wasted, it is most likely going into a landfill, where it rots and creates methane,” Parmenter. “If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of methane gas, after the United States and China.”

And there’s the human aspect. Food security is a persistent issue for the United States.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture  more than 10 percent – 13.7 million – United States households were considered “food insecure” at some time during 2019. Another 10 percent were considered to have “low” or “very low” food security.

“Food waste is a collision of these two problems,” Parmenter said. “Since we’re a food company, it made sense to ask the question, how can we address these problems?”

Hannaford Supermarkets works on the back end to streamline its delivery and shipping and inventory processes to make sure as little food as possible is lost before it gets to the store shelves. But once in the stores, he said, the next priority is making sure that unsold, damaged or expired goods don’t end up in the landfill.

The first step, Parmenter said, is to make sure that food that is still good ends up in the hands of those who need it.

The Rindge Hannaford store, for example, donated 67,500 pounds of fresh food to local pantries or soup kitchens in 2020.

And weekly, about 2,500 pounds a week is sent to local farmers to use as animal feed.

In addition to local donations, the company sought a way to reduce what was being sent into landfills. Part of that solution has been a partnership with Agri-Cycle, a food waste recycling company in Scarborough, Maine – where Hannaford Supermarkets is also based – to collect food waste which is burned in anaerobic digesters along with manure to create renewable energy.

Rindge recycled nearly 100,000 tons of food waste through the Agri-Cyle program last year.

Parmenter said typically, yearly donations are closer to being on par with the amount of food that is recycled through Agri-Cycle. Donations were likely impacted by COVID-19 last year, which temporarily disrupted food pantries, who may not have had sufficient volunteers for regular pick-ups, Parmenter said.

It is through its partnership with Agri-Cycle that Hannaford has been able to take the last step towards totally erasing its food waste, Parmenter said.

Until recently, despite donation efforts, there was still some food waste happening, Parmenter said. But Agri-Cycle has invested in depackaging technology that allows foods in boxes, cans, or other packaging to be processed at their farm-based facilities throughout the Northeast.

The company has partnerships with farms in Hadley and Granville, Massachusetts, Exeter in Maine, St. Andre, located in New Brunswick, Canada and Lewiston, Maine which process the organic waste and compost, to reduce transportation of the waste.

Hannaford Supermarkets have bins in each of its departments, including the deli, meat department, and bakery, and all food waste is deposited there for twice-weekly pickups by Agri-Cycle. And that does mean all, Parmenter said.

“Bones, meat, fat, oils, produce – everything we bring in the back door to sell out the front door, if it’s not sold or donated, goes in the bin,” Parmenter said.


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