Feed people - don't throw food away!
Feed people – don’t throw food away!
There is a saying: ‘Waste not, want not’ (if you don’t waste food, you will always have enough). But people throw a lot of food away. Lydia James writes about other things we can do.
Many pumpkins are left on the ground – like these at a farm near Southampton, England. “Gleaners” can take them and eat them. (© Gleaning Network UK)
‘Not many people like chips, so we’ll have the potatoes,’ says Lorraine. She works at a house for homeless people in Oxford, England. In the Oxford Food Bank’s van today, there are: Christmas puddings, lettuce, bananas, avocados, cookies, eggs and bread. Lots of bread. The organisation collects everything (but not meat). Then they give it to local community charity projects in Oxford.
Lisa, another volunteer, says that the food bank is more like a very helpful mobile business, than a way of giving away ‘waste’. People who use the Oxford Food Bank know what they want. So the volunteers know to control the food they give away. If a lot of this food is ‘waste’, why do people want it? And why do so many people want to buy food in the cut price section in a supermarket, when people throw so much imperfect food in the bin?
It is legal for shops to sell food after the ‘best before’ date but many shops do not sell it. The British Food Standards Agency say the ‘best before’ date is about quality, not safety (except for eggs).
Doug Rauch used to be president of a US supermarket called Trader Joe’s. Last month, he started Daily Table. This shop, in Boston, only sells food after its sell-by date has passed. The food is half price, and the shop does not make a profit. They encourage supermarkets to give this food because they can get a reduction in tax. And they do not waste so much.
Most supermarkets say the people are the problem – they do not want to buy food that is not perfect. But the people say the supermarkets are the problem – they want food to be perfect and they throw away food that people could eat. A campaign like the Best Before Project in Britain gets businesses to sell or give food (after the “best before” date). And this stops these arguments.
Laws and double values
There is a sign saying ‘Do not climb this gate – climb-resistant paint’ on the gate of the Co-op supermarket. I looked through a hole and I saw two workers put big bags of food waste into a very big bin. I know there is a lot of food that people could eat. Many supermarkets do not like people taking the food they throw away. But Tristram Stuart writes in his book Waste, ‘if people let their food go to waste, they do not have the right to own it.’
Supermarkets take people to court who take their waste food. But supermarkets also say they will not buy food from producers in their country and in other countries if it does not look good, or if it is more than they need. And they do not have to pay fines if they refuse the food they ordered. So, for some farmers, 20 to 40 per cent of their food can go to waste. Sometimes 100 per cent is wasted if the weather has made the food look bad.
Many people have collected leftover crops from fields for years – this is called “gleaning” – and more people are doing this now. There is a group of volunteers in Canada called Not Far From The Tree. They pick fruit in Toronto and share it.
30 to 50 per cent of the world’s food is wasted every year. Half of this is in countries that have problems after harvesting the food. They cannot store the food well. And the other half is in rich countries where supermarkets and shoppers do not like the food if it is not perfect, and throw it away.
Throwing away food all over the world
What we do with grain in the West directly affects producers in the Majority World. If cafes and eaters throw away a few pieces of bread at the end of each loaf, the world needs more grain. So the price goes up. Then the poorest people in the world cannot buy it. If there is a new, popular ‘superfood’, farmers cannot sell their crops. Or they have no choice and have to sell them very cheaply before they go to waste.
It is important to manage the crop after harvest so we do not lose the food or affect the environment and the economy. An agricultural NGO group called Groundswell International works in countries like Burkina Faso and Ecuador. They train farmers to improve food security and reduce waste. ‘One very successful plan is metal silos to store grain in Haiti,’ says Chris Sacco, the Director of Operations. ‘We teach farmers to use the silos; and they also learn how to make them.’
In India, Vaibhav Tidke and Shital Somani are developing what they hope will be a solution for millions of farmers and gardeners around the country: a solar convection dryer, for fruit, vegetables and meat. The dryer dries the food, so it can stay in shops for a year and keep all the nutrients. People can add water just before they eat the food.
Farmers are fighting to store and transport their food. But when it arrives in the world’s cafés, hotels and restaurants, it often goes in the bin. British restaurants waste 600,000 tonnes of food each year. But this could stop if they have to pay fines.
A restaurant in Saudi Arabia, Marmar was angry because many people threw away a lot of food in Ramadan (after not eating all day). They started to make people pay fines if they leave food, and they gave the money to charity. And in the US, chef Andrew Shakman started LeanPath. This is a system that can see how much food we waste. It started in 2003 to make kitchen staff more careful with food. The system works out how much food people throw away. A camera takes a photo of all the food as it is thrown away. Workers can then see how much food they waste and how much money that is. Then they have a competition to see who can save the most.
South Korea and Japan like giving their waste food to pigs. But they often use a lot of energy for this. After the foot-and-mouth disease in Britain in 2001, no-one in the EU is allowed to give food waste to pigs. The Pig Idea campaign wants to stop the ban: so we don't waste so much food, and also to stop the problems of using 97% of the soy in the world to feed animals, not people.
Looking after our food
If we waste food, this is greedy, ungrateful or ignorance. But if we grow our own food, we can learn how important it is. ‘Gardening is a great way to connect people with their food,’ says Rob Pearce from Edible Garden City Project in Singapore.
‘When you grow your own food, you harvest just when you want it. This saves waste and gives you the freshest, tastiest and most nutritious food. Lots of children come to our workshops or community gardening sessions. This is great because it gets their hands dirty and they know where food comes from. And also because they value their food as they know how hard it is to grow.’
A billion people are starving worldwide, and 1.4 billion are overweight. The world’s population is increasing and there is very little space left for our waste. But there are many community projects to change this: food growing to food sharing.
Australian organization Food Know How, for example, offers community workshops on how to make good fertile soil from food waste. They make Bokashi bins (easier to use than composters) and outdoor wormeries.
“Fight with your garden spade” says guerrilla gardener Ron Finley. He and others, grows food on land he doesn’t have the legal right to use, by roads and on empty sites around Los Angeles. The revolution begins with eating and giving away food before it becomes waste.
NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/features/2014/06/01/diverting-food-waste-from-landfill/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).