Will French Diners Embrace the Doggy Bag to Combat Food Waste?

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By Adam Campbell-Schmitt Posted January 04, 2016

They're calling it "le gourmet bag."

If there was one food issue that dominated 2015, it was fighting food waste. Pop-ups like Dan Barber's WASTed generated huge buzz, F&W had a no-waste Thanksgiving and many other voices called new levels of attention to the issue. There's good reason to keep it going this year: According to EndFoodWaste.org, nearly half of all food grown and produced in the United States isn't even eaten. While the U.S. carries a sizable share of the burden here, food waste is a worldwide epidemic. One of the most interesting new developments just occurred in France, where the government is now requiring restaurants to provide doggy bags to patrons.

To Americans, this seems like a no-brainer. But as anyone who has dined in Nice, Provence or Paris may well know, France doesn't do doggy bags. In fact, they don't even have a word for it, and some among them aren't hopeful for acceptance. "This is something that won't catch on in France," writer Franck Pinay-Rabaroust (of the magazine Atabula) told the The Telegraph. "Taking leftovers home from a restaurant is unusual here and often frowned upon as an American custom. That may change a bit now that better designed bags are being made that look more chic, but there’s a cultural obstacle.”

A promising poll showed that 75 percent of respondents wouldn't balk at the concept of bringing leftover food home, but a mere 30 percent ever admitted to ever doing so before. To combat the stigma, hospitality union UMIH is trying to give the takeaway container a fittingly French upgrade. Their solution? Calling it "le gourmet bag." It certainly sounds a bit more appetizing. We'll see whether French diners are willing to give leftovers a try.

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