Much of my world revolves around food. Buying it, growing it, cooking it, eating it, and as of late - ensuring it doesn’t go to waste.
Food could hardly be more important to humanity - our biggest industry, our greatest export and our most frequently indulged pleasure. We have to eat; we like to eat; eating makes us feel good. Or as Google puts it: “.. food is important because it provides people with nutrients for energy and good health. The right foods also boost happiness, increase mental functioning, help maintain the appropriate body weight and prevent specific illnesses.”
It is also a profoundly social activity - an occasion for sharing, for distributing, for giving, the ultimate expression of altruism.
Yet a third of what we produce never reaches the table.
In the EU, an estimated 89 million tonnes of food is wasted each year, a figure which could rise to 126 million tonnes by 2020 if no action is taken. In the UK alone, we consume 41 million tonnes of food every single year, yet throw away 15 million tonnes, the majority of which could have been eaten.
It’s pretty clear that change is required. There are nearly 1 billion people in the world who are malnourished. According to the UN, if global food waste were reduced by just 25%, there would be enough food to feed all these hungry mouths. No new fancy systems, just doing what we’re already doing – but better.
So why are we so wasteful?
We are increasingly living in a “throw-away society”. Out with the old, in with the new – and this doesn’t just apply to food. We are taught to be wasteful consumers based on the messages we’re confronted with on a daily basis. We collectively value our time and convenience far more than money, whilst our capitalist society produces waste by making goods feel obsolete nearly as soon as they are purchased.
What’s more – on the whole, we are ignorant about the implications of waste. Not only are we wasting good food, but we are also wasting the resources that are used to produce it – from the soil, water, heat and fertilisers used in the growing process to the energy consumed during its transportation.
Our farmers are also struggling, with 20–40% of fresh produce unsold or unharvested each year because it does not comply with the strict retail specifications, perfectly good vegetables that don’t meet the exact shape, colour and size requirements of the larger retailers.
And it doesn’t stop there. Within the western world, growing food that is never eaten accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. If we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the benefit to the planet would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road. If we carry on, food supply in 2050 could contribute a whopping 2 degrees to global warming.
These figures are staggering. So, what of the future?
There is no doubt that each and every one of us can play a part in minimising food waste to encourage a more responsible and sustainable food system. The average household in the UK wastes an average of £470 worth of food a year, rising to £700 for a family with children, so there are financial benefits too. That’s over 15% of the average grocery annual spend, the equivalent of 3916 bananas, or 796 bags of pasta, or 1044 pints of milk.
We all eat. The responsibility for the sustainability of our food supply, the condition of our farmland and farmers, and the care of the malnourished is very much everyone’s responsibility.
The struggle is real. Luckily, so is the solution.
As consumers, you can easily change your food habits. We have the power to tell our government and food businesses that we do care about food waste and we want them to take action to shift attitudes to reduce this waste.
Wonky Parsnips is an awareness-raising blog that aims to re-awaken the way we engage with food by:
A life-long food loving, waste-hater with a passion for action and generating new ideas, my goals are to inspire others by shining a spotlight on food waste and it’s moral, economic and social impact.
Are you hungry for change?
Wonky Parsnips is an awareness-raising blog that aims to change the way we engage with food.
22nd November 2016: Breadline Challenge - You are what you eat
17th November 2016: Taking on the Breadline Challenge
21st October 2016 - Recipe: #Goatober Jalfrezi Kid Goat & Butternut Bhaji Burger
3rd October 2016 - Recipe: Rack of Kid Goat with Moroccan Couscous
1st October 2016 - Putting Kid Goat on the Menu for the UK's first #Goatober Campaign
12th September 2016 - Eating Locally: My Top 5 Local Businesses
8th September 2016 - Nose-to-Tail Recipe: Pomegranate Beef Cheeks with Butternut Mash
16th August 2016 -
Nose-to-Tail Recipe: Caribbean Lamb Breast with Grilled Pineapple Salsa
16th August 2016 - Sustainably Sourced Meat + Nose-to-Tail Cooking: The Beginning
10th August 2016 - Volunteering with FoodCycle
7th August 2016 - How Slovenia Tackles Food Waste
2nd August 2016 - Recipe: Raw Broccoli Stem and Green Apple 'Ceviche' Salad
18th July 2016 - Eating Locally - The Challenge
13th July 2016 - 10 Practical Tips to Reduce Food Waste at Home
7th July 2016 - 8 Brands Tackling Food Waste