The Chicago French Market is passionate about taking care of their customers and community. They provide diverse culinary options for all palates and an open, social atmosphere to dine in. However, a large side effect from running a food-based business is the amount of uneaten food that goes to waste at the end of each night. A problem that highlights one of the biggest crises across the nation: food waste.

Food production in America has a tremendous resource cost. The government dedicates nearly 10 percent of the total energy budget, 50 percent of its land, and 80 percent of all freshwater to the production and distribution of food, yet even still, up to 40 percent of that food ends up in landfills. As this is a pressing issue across the nation, organizations like the Food Recovery Network, a national program that has a chapter within University of Illinois Chicago, are stepping up to address it.

Tom Straus, Assistant Manager of the Chicago French Market, was inspired to find a solution to this issue through his work with the Food Recovery Network and his graduate studies at UIC. Straus dedicates most of his research to the food waste crisis and brought these two organizations together.

Almost all the 30-plus vendors in the market are involved with food donations to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls and Revive Center for Housing and Healing. For example, bulk items like rice, beans or chicken come from Aloha Poke. Pastoral and City Fresh Grocery donate food towards group lunches and dinners. Desserts and other sweet treats from Vanille Pastisserie and Beaver’s Donuts provide sweets and coffee.

There has been a lot of positive feedback from those involved as well. “Everyone has been supportive and happy about it,” says Straus, “People even apologize when they don’t have any food waste to donate.” Working with the Food Recovery Network has also greatly benefitted the Chicago French Market as they help collect tax incentives for making these donations.

Since it first started working with the Food Recovery Network in June, the Chicago French Market has already donated up to 3,000 pounds of food. The Food Recovery Network donates anywhere from 50-200 pounds of food to local homeless shelters and resource centers each week.

The Food Recovery Network is always looking to expand their network. Whether it’s donors, partners or volunteers. For more information on how to get involved, visit their website

Industry News, Philanthropy