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Milk Street Cafe Fights Food Waste in Boston

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Mark Bevilacqua, Catering Operations Manager, handing off packaged food part of an order to be delivered to a customer.

The United States wastes more than 40% of its food. To put that into perspective, that is the equivalent to roughly 125 to 160 billion pounds of food thrown out each year, most of which is perfectly edible. So why is all that perfectly good food being thrown away? It all comes down to production and supply chains, over purchasing, long transportation journeys, unrealistic aesthetic standards, and the food service industry.

Food Waste in the U.S. Restaurant Industry

Although a lot of recent discussion surrounding the reduction of food waste has been on the household level, more focus needs to be placed on the restaurant industry. A recent study found that anywhere between 4% and 10% of food purchased by restaurants never meets the consumer, and of the food that does, approximately 31% to 40% of food served doesn't get eaten at all. Having worked in food service myself for a total of seven years, the amount of food I've seen thrown away daily is astonishing, and I've always wished there was some way to avoid it. But, there are rules and health regulations in place that make it impossible for restaurants to save food from one day to the next, so any unused edible food ends up in the trash.

CFO, Mitchell Baratz, leaving Milk Street Cafe in our van covered with our signature painting to drop off catering deliveries.

Combating Food Waste at Milk Street Cafe

While the majority of restaurants throw out unused food at the end of the day, Milk Street Cafe is doing the opposite. At the end of each day, all leftover food from the large catering kitchens is donated to local food banks and shelters. Owner Marc Epstein has been doing this since the Cafe opened its doors 40 years ago in 1981. "Throwing away wholesome food is a crime," he says, and businesses need to step up to reduce their carbon footprint. Milk Street has been partners with The Greater Boston Food Bank, The New England Center & Home for Veterans, and Pine Street Inn, to name a few. Customers can even get involved by donating their accrued Brownie Points to food banks and shelters as well.

Donating Amidst Covid

Milk Street Cafe cautiously reopened its kitchens on August 16, 2021, but navigating work during a Pandemic has presented its own set of problems. Being a corporate catering company, Milk Street's business relies on people working in offices, and businesses are pushing back reopening with the emergence of the Delta Variant. That being said, there is less demand for office catering and less food leftover to donate. Since reopening, Milk Street has been donating meals exclusively to The New England Center & Home for Veterans. "The look on [the veterans] faces when we walk through the door— they see that it's Milk Street and they just know that they will be having delicious, quality food," says Catering Manager, Mark Bevilacqua. Milk Street hopes to resume donating daily to shelters across Boston as business picks up again.

Building exterior of The New England Center & Home for Veterans.
The New England Center & Home for Veterans

Too Good To Go

Not only does Milk Street donate all leftover food, but in September 2021, we also partnered with the world's #1 app for fighting food waste, Too Good To Go. The company launched in Copenhagen back in 2015 and has since expanded to cities all over Europe, the United States, and now Boston. The idea is similar to UberEats, Doordash, and Grubhub, but instead of looking over a menu and choosing items, the customer is given a bag with whatever food is leftover that day for just $4 to $6. The app saves more than 200,000 meals everyday and since Milk Street joined one month ago, 75 meals and 182.5 kg of CO2 have been saved.

Milk Street Cafe has donated countless meals since 1981 to shelters and food banks in the Boston area, preventing thousands of pounds of perfectly edible food from ending up in dumpsters. Milk Street is just one independently-owned family restaurant, but our commitment to reducing food waste still has an enormous impact.

Check out all of Milk Street's Menus here. If you have any questions about corporate catering or need specific dietary menu options, call us at Milk Street Cafe! 617-542-3663.


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