Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Eyes Bigger than Your Stomach? That’ll Cost You.

Hayashi Ya Japanese restaurant on the Upper West Side has begun charging 3% above the $26.95 buffet cost for customers who don’t clean their plates.

Hayashi Ya’s new policy suggests that the American tradition of all-you-can-eat buffets and monster portions could face changes as consumers and food vendors acknowledge the rising cost of not only the food on their plates, but the food that they waste.

27% of all food distributed in America goes to waste: that’s one pound of food per person per day and nearly 30 million tons per year. As the number of Americans who can’t afford enough food continues to climb, such waste is getting harder and harder to justify.

Hayashi Ya’s manager sites a desire to curb waste as the primary reason for the new charge, but also acknowledges that food waste generates expenses for the restaurant, which can be eliminated by encouraging customer restraint.

Other restaurants have similarly begun to trim excessive portions. "One in six city residents can't afford enough food at all," said NYCCAH Executive Director Joel Berg. "We certainly don't need on the other side of the spectrum fancy restaurants offering ridiculous excess portions."

Part of the answer to these food inequities may include new emphasis on food conservation, which includes principles that low-income families know well: use what’s on hand, salvage the usable elements of food that would otherwise go to waste, and modify portions to suit your nutritional needs rather than restaurant standards that tend towards excess.

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