Reducing food waste: more than just cleaning your plate‏

Food waste is wasteful. It offends me whenever I see it.

I grew up with parents who’d lived in England through the 2nd World War. They’d known ration books. We learned ‘waste not, want not.’ I learned to ‘have eyes no bigger than my stomach,’ to eat my whole meal, and to cook from recipe books that took pride in using up the leftovers. The great (and often very tasty) tradition of the rechauffe. I learned to put vegetable peelings into the compost bucket. I went to schools where leftover dinners went to pigswill.

As you may have gathered by now, throwing good food away is really offensive to me. It was one of the few things I disliked about working in the catering trade. It’s one of the things I have in common with my partner, who grew up poor on a farm where her family lived by traditions such as ‘eating every part of the pig except its squeak.’ Neither of us is obese because we control our food intake by not overshopping the fattening treats. Also because we’re both blessed to be without the disabilities that make some people gain weight.

I’m proud to be old-fashioned about waste. I want thrift to come back into ordinary people’s minds and to stay there.

We in Europe are invited to sign the European Union’s Joint Food Wastage Declaration ‘Every Crumb Counts’. I’ve signed. Have you?

It’s entirely possible to reduce food waste without putting ourselves at risk of food-borne disease. I’ve linked from this blog to some of the websites I’ve found about how to be safely thrifty (see my ‘waste’ tag). For example, here’s WasteWatch. Some of us garden with home-made compost. People on these crowded islands who don’t want, or don’t have the space, to make compost can choose to garden in tiny spaces with municipal compost.

Across the Pond, Robert Fireovid at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that reducing food waste is more than just cleaning your plate.‏ He tells us of the US Food Waste Challenge, ‘calling on producer groups and others to join in efforts to reduce food loss and waste, recover wholesome food for human consumption, and recycle discarded food to feed animals, produce compost or even generate energy.’

Dr Fireovid describes how USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is developing technologies to keep food fresh. In a country where less than 1/5 of household income is spent on food, while landfills and people’s waistlines swell, this is no joke. My own country is moving the same way with our own growing problem of obesity. In poor countries, as people move towards prosperity, people get fat.

Obesity is bad for health and it’s bad for the land. One way or another, different countries need to make thift feasible.

[Edit] With thanks to my fellow blogger petrel41 (see pingback below) I’ll end with a quote from John Steinbeck’s great novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939). ‘There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificates—died of malnutrition—because the food must rot, must be forced to rot … and in the eyes of the people there is a failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.’


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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9 Responses to Reducing food waste: more than just cleaning your plate‏

  1. Pingback: Fresh food wasted amidst hunger | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Tony says:

    When I kept chicken and ducks way back in the days of old, they should to get the leftover scraps and were very welcoming of them. Our long-gone pussycat, at least the latest one, would occasionally eat different bits and pieces. Most of what we eat (crude estimate of 90 to 95%) gets eaten by our family of three. Nowadays, what is left over goes out for the birds. This is fine, as long as salted and spicy products are not put on the bird table. Due to this, I think my family are doing their bit, so why can’t others in the more developed countries adopt a similar approach?

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