Food Policies


What You Need To Know

When surplus food ends up in a landfill, it emits millions of pounds of methane and CO2, and wastes resources like water, land, and labor. This has consequences for our planet, which has consequences for its people. Climate change and food security are deeply intertwined, which is why we need to address both.

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that in 2018, about 63 million tons of wasted food were generated in the United States. While Americans dispose of millions of tons of food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 10.5 percent of American households - about 13.7 million households - had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources at some time during 2019. In many cases, the food tossed into our nation’s landfills is wholesome, edible food.

Restaurants can be leaders in the community by collecting unspoiled, healthy food and donating it to our neighbors in need. By donating food, we’re feeding people, not landfills, supporting local communities, and saving all the resources that went into producing that food from going to waste.

To obtain Tier 1 Certification, you will be able to identify divertable food waste and determine if any can be donated to a local hunger-relief agency. Be ready and willing to talk about what you've learned about your business operations and greater community during our walk-through certification visit.


How You Could Start

Choose the employee that handles large orders or catering and gauge from them how much food is currently wasted, if any. Allow them to help you decide the best path forward after a conversation with a local hunger-relief agency that you choose to work with. Keep close track of food donations, as they may be tax deductible and the community can applaud your reported efforts. 


Food Donation Resources

View our interactive list of hunger-relief non-profits



What You Need To Know

The rewards of choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet are numerous!

Not only are there quite a few health advantages to reducing meat consumption, there are many environmental benefits to eating lower on the food chain: fossil fuels are conserved; water use is reduced; grain is more efficiently used; and topsoil is preserved.

Vegetarian and vegan cuisines needn't be an upscale affair. Many ingredients that substitute for meat, eggs and dairy products are actually cheaper or priced similarly. Plus, meat prices are expected to continue rising. Reducing meat purchases and increasing meat-free fare can help save your dining operation a ton of money.

According to Forbes, out of 22 restaurants surveyed that made the switch to 100 percent vegan menus, the 17 that responded reported increased sales—and some saw sales surge by as much as 1,000 percent. The eateries also reported an increase in social media followings—some as much as 15,000 percent. Many also saw a decrease in food costs.

To obtain Tier 1 Certification, you will explain plans to incorporate at least 1 vegetarian or vegan entree to the menu or highlight an existing one. 

To obtain Tier 2 Certification, you will highlight at least 1 vegetarian and 1 vegan entree on your menu.

To obtain Tier 3 Certification, you will highlight at least 1 vegetarian, 1 vegan, and 1 plant-based for health entree on your menu.


How You Could Start

There are ways to creatively replace animal products with plant-based alternatives. One great example of this is burgers. A meaty plant substitute like a lentil and bean patty allows you to keep many of your core ingredients (provided they, too, are free of animal products) and ditch the meat. A bottom-line bonus is that a veggie burger often costs less to source or produce than a high-quality meat equivalent of the same size.

Not sure what plant-based menu items will resonate with your customer base (current or desired)? Ask them! Reaching out to vegan alliances or local nutritionists and dieticians are two helpful avenues to gather insights and feedback. Another source – one close to your current customers – is your staff. Many tableside conversations never make their way to management, so involving your restaurant employees by encouraging them to make menu suggestions or sample top contenders will make the process of expanding your menu more efficient, and it offers a healthy dose of employee engagement along the way.

Language is a big consideration when marketing plant-based foods. Finding out whether your audience is more receptive to “plant-based” than “vegan” or “meat-free” will help you roll out a campaign to encourage new customers through your doors. Some find that it's easier to tweak existing menu items by removing the meat added to a pasta dish, sandwich, or salad and instead default to vegetarian, then upcharge for the meat. Don’t forget to document what you’ve learned as part of your restaurant marketing strategy!


Plant-based Eating Resources

Visit Central Arkansas Vegan's website for ideas and insights

Check out our Pinterest Board for plant-based recipe ideas

Explore this online Carbon "Foodprint" Calculator to compare foods


What You Should Know

Buying locally is great for the environment, customers, and your wallet. When you shop locally for your restaurant, you’re making a statement to customers on your business values.

Keeping ingredient shopping local is a great way to minimize the waste your restaurant’s kitchen produces. Buying bulk from long-distance suppliers or regional distributors can mean that a portion of your ingredients will go bad before you are able to use them, due to extended travel times and larger quantities, resulting in a loss for your business’s budget. The practice of buying ingredients locally will help eliminate food waste at your restaurant. When buying from local vendors, you’ll be able to buy the exact amount of ingredients your kitchen needs and receive your ingredients quickly.

To obtain Tier 2 certification, you will demonstrate plans to source items on your menu locally and highlight them accordingly. This could be "Marinara made with only Arkansas Grown Tomatoes" or a fresh potato salad with "Dill Grown Locally at Dunbar Garden."

To obtain Tier 3 certification, you will highlight at least 5 items on your menu that are sourced from local ingredients. You will demonstrate your knowledge of local market offerings by explaining how you decided to source these ingredients and share distributor information with the Swing Into Action program. 


How You Could Start

Explore this Map of Arkansas Farmers' Markets

Arkansas Grown - Interactive Search Engine for Local Food & Producers

Visit this Online Farmers Market powered by the Arkansas Local Food Network

Discover Local, In-season Products with this powerful Search Engine