School of Sustainability alumna provides tips on reducing food waste

As we try to tackle the wicked problem of climate change, one of the biggest and most important hurdles is the transformation of our food systems. While that may sound like a daunting task, the good news is there are little changes we can make each day to bring us closer to that transformation. One of these changes is reducing food waste, a concept that has found a passionate advocate in sustainable restauranteur Danielle Leoni.

Leoni is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership program and the co-owner and chef of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar where she employs the best practices — including reducing food waste — to make the restaurant sustainable. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the restaurant and bar to temporarily shutter, but Leoni’s approach to mitigating food waste still remains as relevant as ever, particularly now that a lot more people are cooking from home.

In late February, Leoni sat down with the Phoenix New Times (article: "Table Scraps: Know the Story of Your Food, Says Chef Danielle Leoni") to discuss her tips on how to prevent food waste:

Shopping conservatively.

Over-buying is one of the biggest causes of food waste, so Leoni advises grocery shoppers to shop with two questions in mind: “Am I actually going to use all this food?” and “Which part of this don’t I have a plan for?” She applies this philosophy in her restaurant, using the entirety of food she buys so little to nothing is tossed away. And on the (hopefully) rare occasion you over-buy? She has an approach for that too.

Creative cooking.

Leoni wants consumers to think twice before throwing away food. At her home, almost nothing goes to waste. She uses old lettuce to make lettuce soup and old tomatoes for marinara.

“Think of another way,” Leoni says in the Phoenix New Times. “Chop it up, dice it, slice it, put it in a stew, a pasta, toss it in some rice, hash it up, eat it for breakfast — it’s still good food." Leoni’s personal belief is that throwing away food hurts you as you’ve wasted time and money buying it and not using it all.

Know your food.

Leoni believes there would be a lot less food waste if we as consumers knew the stories behind our foods. Each food or item of food has a lot invested in it and she believes we would be a lot less hesitant to throw it away if we were aware of that.