Comment submitted to The Sustainable Food Trust

In reply to an article, Let Them Eat Waste, by Francesca Price…

My wife, Barbara, and I, are avid supporters of initiatives addressing problems of food waste. Our personal quest to reduce food waste has resulted in us developing the EatBy App which is a free app designed to help householders reduce food waste by better kitchen management. (Our app plug is over.) 

It’s fantastic to see a number of initiatives that are finally emerging to tackle food waste at every link in the food chain, from supply to consumer to suitable disposal. The key is to look at the problem in its entirety – not just at one particular aspect of it. Granted, our app is aimed towards reducing domestic waste and we hope it also increases awareness. We are acutely concerned that, until supply more closely reflects a more suitable and sustainable demand, unnecessary food waste is inevitable. Demand will change as consumer habits alter. And old habits will only change with heightened awareness of the problems and, of course, with suitable solutions including adequate lifestyle alterations.

Serving delegates of the 2015 United National Environmental Programme Annual Summit a four course meal made from misshapen fruit and vegetables helped highlight a problem and raise awareness.

Yes, buying misshapen products is helpful – misshapen fruit and vegetables taste no different and shouldn’t be disposed of because they’re less perfect! Besides the philosophical and anthropological questions raised by the issues of “perfect” fruit and veg, discarding massive quantities of organic waste is costly to the producer, the consumer and, most importantly, to the environment.

It’s not just misshapen food, of course! It’s shopping habits, food storage and preservation, logistics and distribution, marketing and advertising, wholesale and retail practices (including pricing policies), farming and fishing, food processing and packaging, energy reclamation methods, data processing and analysis – the list could go on! Consumer habits, farming methods, industrial processes and retail practices can be changed with media coverage and legislation.

I’m sure (or I’d hope) the delegates of the summit are aware of all these complexities.

But, with a growing population and the disgraceful disparities between us, and with extensive hunger and poverty on a planet straining from some of our unnecessary excesses we must plan for the future and start making the appropriate changes now. This shouldn’t be down to activists, lobbyists or political/charitable organisations (or an ethically entrepreneurial married couple). Regardless of individual ideals or political persuasion – anyone who considers themselves part of a caring society must contribute if we are all to survive. It has to be down to each of us to make some small changes. Changes in our attitudes and behaviour as consumers will ultimately drive change for the better further up the supply chain. Maybe, at the next summit, delegates will be made to go hungry to emphasise the need for the changes.

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