If you’d like a good overview of the latest issues surrounding food waste, I suggest grabbing a glass or mug of your favourite beverage and heading to the Parliament website where you can digest wide-ranging evidence provided by campaigners Tristram Stuart and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.
The evidence they give is to the House of Commons, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee for a government enquiry into Food Waste in England, answering questions about the causes and extent of food waste from farms right across the world to our plates at home.
Their comments cover issues such as the impact on farmers of orders cancelled by supermarkets, the need for transparency right across the supply chain, mandatory food waste reduction targets for retailers and manufacturers as well as the need for better control in the hospitality sector.
There’s even a point where the amount of food waste created by Parliament is discussed, toying with the idea of a competition between the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Hugh is first in line to request permission to film that for his next documentary should the opportunity arise – and fascinating viewing it would be too. After all, it is taxpayers’ money that pays for the amount that Parliament wastes and I’d like to see the steps that they take to reduce it.
But putting my fascination aside, if you want to find out more about why and how our government could step in to make retailers more accountable, do read the full transcript from 15 November. Here’s a shortcut: bit.ly/2gbuQU3.
Meanwhile, away from the formality of Parliament, I want to add my own question - and that is, as communities, are we are doing all that we can to try to influence and change the system to reduce the amount of food that is wasted?
I don’t mean signing petitions or doing what we can at home. These are important of course, but while government works out how much influence it can have on supermarkets, there are opportunities for us to raise our ambitions in the areas where we live – by pulling together and treating it as a whole community responsibility.
A good example of this is a reciprocally beneficial agreement between Sainsbury’s in Bury St Edmunds and two local charities, which regularly collect surplus food from the supermarket for their members. This arrangement was put in place thanks to introductions made at a local Women’s Institute event about a resolution that asks supermarkets to distribute unsold food that is still good to eat to charities.
There is an opportunity to help even more people. A great example of what can be done to connect surplus food to those who need it is Ipswich’s Teapot project, which you may have seen me mention before - www.theteapotproject.com.
Further afield in the market town of Shrewsbury is another fantastic example of a model that can be replicated with the right support – Shrewsbury Food Hub, a volunteer-based organisation that collects from supermarkets and delivers the food directly to the town’s charities and schools. In the first six months of operation it has provided 10,000 meals worth of food. For more information visit, www.shrewsburyfoodhub.org.uk or have a look at them in action on YouTube - bit.ly/2gsWKxR
Every town should have a solution that connects surplus food from businesses to those who need it most, supporting charities and the people they help but what’s lacking is often time, awareness and expertise. However, seeing what other towns have done is the start of creating new possibilities.
If you’re interested in exploring ideas for Bury St Edmunds, do get in touch with me at Karen@therubbishdiet.org.uk.