Writer_Bethan Greaves asks, how do you feel about brown bananas? Do you chuck sprouting spuds? Is your cool box where salad goes to die? Every year in the UK, we throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink, and more than half of this is stuff we could have eaten.
Often, food is thrown away because people don’t know when it is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ But when you consider that the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe, the problem starts to seem a little overwhelming. As it comes from all stages of production, it can feel like a lot of this waste is out of our control, but there are several things you can do to reduce food waste and your environmental impact at the same time.
Although it seems obvious, simply planning your shopping so that you buy less, and then eating your leftovers will save you money and is a great place to start. But if you want to do more than this, and increase your food-familiarity at the same time, there are lots of ways to tackle food waste whilst you live in London.
Food Not Bombs is a volunteer group based in New Cross that has been rescuing food from bins and cooking it up into tasty meals at local homeless shelters for over three years. As a small and independent group of students and local residents, they are always looking for new members and can give food hygiene training for anyone who wants to give their time.
Currently, they feed about 15 residents, and themselves, at St. Mungo’s Hostel every Monday afternoon with fresh vegetables and bread from a farm shop and bakery. These sessions run on people’s generosity, but these suppliers are more than happy to see their excess products go into people’s bellies, and not the bin. You don’t need to have any cooking experience to join, just a willingness to put on an apron, get stuck in and approach wonky vegetables with an open mind.
If you want to give your time but cooking isn’t your thing, there are other ways of working through the waste-food chain. You can sign up to the Gleaning Network, which uses people power to harvest unpicked crops from farms and then gives it to charities like Fare Share to redistribute to people who can use it.
What you can do right now though, is reconsider your attitude to food. A brown banana tastes extra sweet in a cake and means you can often leave out the eggs. Sprouts on potatoes can be cut out, and salad keeps longer when your fridge isn’t too cold. The food in our homes is a luxury that should be enjoyed, so get to know it better.