Thursday, 10 January 2013

Acting on food waste

2013 for the WI has begun with something long associated with the organisation:  food.  Last week, there was much media attention and talk about teaching cookery in schools more widely than is currently on offer, which is something that the WI has long called for, along with teachers, chefs and many more interested parties.  I have commented before that there are schools where cookery is taught to an extremely high standard and where produce is grown in school gardens and then served for lunches, which demonstrate excellent practice where possible.  However, the interviews came out of what needs to become an important discussion on food: how we grow crops, how we distribute food, how can we produce enough for all – is it to be had through huge factory farming projects, is there scope to deliver more through small-scale farming? Or do we carry on as we are?   By 2050, it is estimated there will be up to nine billion people in the world and there are fears that foods of all types will not be available in large enough quantities. 

In my last blog, I wrote in more detail of the WI’s Great Food Debates soon to take place, but today this very issue is hitting the headlines with the claim that there is far too much food wasted across the world.  Reasons given include a poor harvest and poor harvesting of crops; supermarkets rejecting harvests of fruit and vegetable because they are of the ‘wrong’ size or shape; sales promotions that encourage people to buy more than they need resulting in discarded food; and overly strict sell-by dates, as well as fussy consumers.  The Institute of Mechanical Engineers also comments that water used for these crops is being wasted.

Some four years ago, the NFWI worked with Love Food Hate Waste on a project to address many of these issues, and the wastage of food in particular.  This was undertaken with the aim of helping people to change food buying habits and attitudes in order to avoid waste, and the call today is that consumer attitudes need to change.  I am pleased that the WI is leading the way once again.

Way back in 2007 I attended a conference called “If Only Food Could Talk” when there was much evidence of waste from suppliers as well as consumers.  Locally grown and produced sustainable foods were also in evidence and part of the discussion.  That was five years ago; why do we take so long to listen, never mind to act?  Today’s headline must not be forgotten tomorrow.