Disformed carrots, oversized courgettes, apples in which you can’t see your own reflection; all these products often end up in the trash. Food belongs on the plate, not in the trash. However, worldwide, one third of all food ends up getting wasted along the entire value chain. Food waste can be found everywhere in that chain: over-production in agriculture and gastronomy, in the supermarkets, and private households. Over-production of food is a side effect of supermarkets’ and costumers’ high standards of their products. Supermarkets in many parts of Europe have ‘norms’ in regards to the looks of fruit and vegetables, meaning they reject for example disformed, over- or undersized carrots from farmers, but they only sell ‘perfection’ to the customers. Leading to the question: what came first, the chicken or the egg? Who decided that disformed products are not good enough, was it the supermarkets imposing that ‘standard’, or was it the demand of the costumers?
Luckily, there is a growing worldwide consumer awareness of this food-waste issue. Young people in particular will no longer accept that that impeccable food is left on the field, classified as ‘second-class’ and not being good enough for the costumer because of small defects. Consumers increasingly understand that nature is not a perfect factory, but has a mind of its own, producing wonky vegetables and fruits which are perfectly fine to eat. With the understanding of nature’s variety, people are more willing to buy unordinary products. According to Nick Nuttall (former Spokesperson for the UN Environment and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change): “consumers have been made aware of the absurdity that a perfectly nutritious potato or carrot could be discarded because it has some funny bits sticking out of it”.
Food-waste is not only an inefficient use of resources that are already limited, a stress for the environment, but also an ethical problem as not everyone has enough to eat on our planet. Food waste is a deep-rooted problem, as there are many faulty factors along the whole value chain. One way for us to tackle this issue, is to change the current food system, meaning we need to change our behaviour as costumers. Once we ‘the consumers’ are aware of the this, we can help reform the supply of supermarkets by demanding ‘imperfect’ products. Moreover, we need to build alternatives to supermarkets, raise awareness and strengthen production-costumer connections. Only once we understand where our food is coming from and how it was produced, we can appreciate it and can make conscious decisions about our groceries. Until then there are some small steps to become a food-saver instead of a food-waster.
From food-waster to food-saver:
* ⁃ Smart groceries: buy only what you need, plan your meals and take a grocery list
* ⁃ Direct shopping: buy directly from the farmer (e.g. farmer markets), buy ‘imperfect’ products.
* ⁃ Cooking: only cook as much as you need, use the package instructions to avoid huge amounts of left-overs.
* ⁃ Left-overs: keep food rests and be creative with your leftovers (e.g. MyFoodWays app), bring it to work or for neighbours
* ⁃ Expiration: use up opened packages before using new ones, use your common sense when it comes to expiration dates
* ⁃ Food save organizations: support and inform yourself about organisations in your country (e.g. Too Good To Go app), find ‘food-waste restaurants’ or support food cooperatives in your town.
We can all make a difference in the way we shop and eat!