In my last year of highschool, some friends and I volunteered at a soup kitchen in downtown Hamilton. One evening I served a man who said “You can only be sure of two things in life: one, you need to eat and two, you’re going to die. So be sure that when you’re older you work in the food or funeral sector. That way you’ll be sorted for life”. It was incredibly sage advice that I’ve never forgotten (and I do indeed work in the food sector now).
Every year over 1.6 million tonnes of food goes to landfill in the UK. That’s huge. And the majority of the waste is completely unnecessary.
Where does all the leftover food go in supermarkets? Food that may be perfectly fit for consumption but has packaging that is slightly damaged. Or produce that’s about to go off but still good, like bananas that can be made into banana bread. Where do all the freshly made sandwiches go from cafes when they close?
Slowly public opinion and pressure is moving towards wasting less and better policies and practices are slowly tackling some of the issues. This much welcomed shift could be because the cost is immense and we’re in tough times economically. But also it’s because people are becoming more and more aware of global inequalities and how bad it is that us in developed countries to take what we have for granted.
Things like legislation being introduced that scraps sell-by dates on food, and retailers like Sainsbury’s getting rid ‘freeze on day of purchase’ labels are helping to pave the way to reduce food waste.
And There are some brilliant organisations out there now tackling food waste issues, like Fareshare and Foodcycle.
Fareshare redistributes product from the food and drink industry to organisations working with vulnerable people in the community.
Foodcycle collects excess food from local farmers markets, supermarkets and other retailers and turn this surplus into delicious meals that get served to people in the community in need. Kind of brilliant, right?
There’s also my new favourite thing at the moment: Zero Gachis. It’s an app for finding reduced food near you. It matches businesses to consumers by sharing the details of food that’s about to expire. Conceived at a Start-up weekend in Brittany (and they won first place!) the app is still in it’s early days.
I’d love to know that I can buy carrots for 0.20p a bag because they’re close to their best before date, rather than a buy a bag for £1 when I’d be eating them as soon as I’m home. It’s both saving money and alleviating the guilt of wasting food.
Of course like most rampant social problems, technology at this scale likely won’t solve world hunger but it will definitely help reduce the amount of food that goes to waste on a retail level and of course increase awareness and ultimately that’s what it’s all about. Make people aware of the issue and then provide the necessary tools, knowledge and organisations to manage – and reduce- food waste.