Prioritizing Efficiency Leaves Less Waste at Irv & Shelly’s

IFSC Guest Blog Series by Rose Brickley, Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks

The compost bin at Growing Power Farm where much of our food scraps are sent. The worms are very active!

Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks is a local and organic grocery delivery company that works with regional farmers and producers to source the best quality organic produce, grass-fed meats, farm fresh eggs & dairy, baked goods, seasonal boxes and other tasty grocery items. Making healthy foods available to everyone and supporting local farmers in the most sustainable way possible is the mission of Irv & Shelly’s.

As a mission-oriented business with a focus on sustainability, we try to reduce our footprint with every step of our process. Just as we prioritize efficiency on our delivery routes and have developed reusable packing materials, composting to reduce waste comes naturally. As we are also committed to supporting our local farmers in whatever way possible, composting happens to be a great way for us to quite literally, give back.

Backhauling Compost Program
A group of warehouse packers sorting through produce that will either be sent to customers or deemed "Take Home" or "Compost".Compost containers are located in the cooler at the warehouse, underneath the assembly line where orders are packed. As the packing team sorts through produce, anything they find that is blemished will go into either a "Take Home" bin or a Compost bin. Items in the "Take Home" bin are either given to a food pantry or are left for employees to take home. Anything not fit for human consumption is moved to the compost bin. In addition, all employees are encouraged to compost scraps from their own lunches, etc in these compost bins.

A compost bin in the warehouse, partially full with blemished lettuce.

The compost bins are about 20-25 gallons and 6-10 bins each are filled each week. As bins accumulate, they are sent to a local farmer who is able to finish the composting process on their farm when picking up new produce.

Before Compost Comes Utilizing Food and Reducing Waste
Of course putting food to good use before composting is important and Irv & Shelly’s has developed a couple of ways to facilitate that. Produce that has cosmetic deficiencies are sold as “blemished” at a reduced cost to our customers. See examples of blemished apples for sale.

Customers are encouraged to use blemished items, like apples, for uses where the appearance doesn’t matter, like juicing or baking. We are always looking for more ways to reduce food waste and are investigating ways to offer more prepared food options to use some of our “ugly” produce (twisty carrots or nicked peaches) into delicious meals, juices or snacks. Blemished food is also used by partnering with local bakery, Delightful Pastries that uses bananas and zucchinis with cosmetic flaws that will be baked into banana and zucchini bread. 

Compared to a grocery store which typically stocks more than it can sell, Irv & Shelly’s doesn’t have a retail space or need to beautify displays. By predicting ordering patterns for the week and ordering just enough food to fill the orders we are left with minimal excess. Predictions can go awry which leaves an excess or shortfall. When faced with an excess, items are features, put on sale, or promoted before composting. 

Shelly & Richard de Wilde of Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, WI. We work closely with Richard to source lots of high quality organic produce. Harmony Valley is another one of our farmers who take food scraps from us and turn them into compost to continue the cycle of growing more delicious organic produce!

By working directly with local farmers and their fragile produce, there are challenges with food scrap reduction at times. For example, if there is a hard rain just before a berry harvest, chances are that the berries will not last as long as planned. Through flexibility and creativity, the product is used as quickly as possible. Despite these challenges, food scrap reduction is a top priority for many reasons and will continue to improve processes to reduce the environmental footprint of the business. Shelly & Richard de Wilde of Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, WI are pictured to the right. Irv & Shelly's works closely with Richard to source high quality organic produce. Harmony Valley is another one of our farmers who take food scraps from us and turn them into compost to continue the cycle of growing more delicious organic produce!

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