Food waste bugs me. Food producers spend millions getting food to ‘look’ just right, often sacrificing flavour and nutrition in the process. Processing food for convenience consumes vast quantities of water and other scarce natural resources. In addition, our lack of understanding of where food really comes from and willingness to purchase food that ‘looks right’ helps create mountains of food waste and perpetuate an unhealthy diet.
- Last year, a survey of 27,500 children by the British Nutrition Foundation found that almost a third of those aged five to 12 thought fish fingers came from chickens or pigs. One secondary pupil in five didn’t know where potatoes came from. Ten per cent thought spuds grow on trees.
If you’re shocked by those figures, consider this too:
- 80 per cent of the secondary school pupils surveyed had been on a ‘farm visit’, presumably arranged to counter lack of understanding of food and its sources.
In Britain – and this is true of much of the developed world too – we fill fridges with lots of what looks nice, not what we actually need. The cost of that indulgence is, says the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, £10bn annually. The way we consume shellfish is scandalous – our need for ease is paid for environmentally with decimated stocks. The cost, in money, energy, environmental damage and ever-scarcer water, is unquantifiable.
Our German friends – as so often in environmental matters – lead the way with an initiative aimed to reducing food waste drastically. Original Unverpackt, currently with just one branch in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, aims to sell food largely sourced from local suppliers (to cut down transportation costs and pollution), with products sold in bulk using gravity bins (upside-down containers with a lever to help users select only exactly what they need) and with the selected products then taken away in customers own containers or borrowed and reusable containers or recycled paper bags.
Food is food no matter what it looks like. This shy cucumber, curling in coy repose, made a delicious salad when peeled, sliced and pickled in rice vinegar, sugar and chilli oil. Bagged salads offer less nutrition because of the processing they’ve been through (washed in chlorine for example – so definitely not good for you).
Time to get real: Ask your supermarket what they do with waste food.
Better still, shop locally at street markets where small scale market gardeners sell food and don’t be afraid of ‘ugly’ food – it’s often cheaper, less processed, more local and just as nutritious.
Doing nothing is not an option, in fact doing nothing is complicity in the environmental destruction and spiralling cost of processed food, with all the resulting health problems we’re becoming all to aware of.
Here are some facts:
We don’t need to increase food production, we just need to stop throwing food away:
Like really, we have to stop throwing food away: