Fight against Food Wastage

Guest blog post by Joseph McNamara 

       Joseph McNamara 

       Joseph McNamara 

In 2012 the world produced over 100 million tonnes of food wastage annually, it is expected to reach 120 million tonnes or above well before 2020. In Ireland, the average household will account for over one third of the food wastage in Ireland. That is about 80 kilos of food per person, per year. In financial terms that is on average €700 per annum.

It can be broken down into the following categories 60% avoidable food wastage (over buying, products passed its’ sell by date, fruit and vegetable spoiling. 20% Potentially avoidable food wastage (bread crust, leftovers and cooking excessive amounts of food) and 20% unavoidable food wastage (bones, potato skins and peelings. These could be used to make stocks and broths or used in compost bins.) If you want to look at it from a slightly different perspective, this is how we dispose of unused foods - Salads 50%, Fruit and Vegetable 25%, Bread 20%, Meat 10%, Fish 10% and Diary 10%. 

As for our shopping habits the consumer and the supermarkets have a responsibility to stock and buy the not so perfectly shaped fruit and vegetables. The supermarkets are claiming they cannot stock these perfect (in every other way) produce as we the consumer will not purchase them. I personally would prefer to buy a banana with a large curve, a carrot with a twisted end or a tomato that has taken a knock or three.

At least then I know it was not genetically modified, that it was a real honest carrot and that I had options to what and how I bought This has the knock-on effect of the local farmers having to dispose of vast quantities of food because there is no market for them. The farmers will then be able to make a proper living and will be able produce a wider variety of produce for us to consume.  We may be able to purchase IRISH fruit and not from somewhere half a world away.

We should be following Frances recent laws requiring Supermarkets to contact local food charities, food banks, homeless centres and similar organisations on a daily basis. This alerts these magnificent, Hardworking, dedicated organisation that there will be perishable and consumable food available at a certain time and in what stores. Imagine if Ireland was to follow this brave piece of legislation.

Would you be more content to know that every attending school child could avail of breakfast, lunch and tea clubs.

That not one child in Ireland need not go hungry again and that those who are less fortunate than us could get a bowl of soup, a hot meal and a piece of fruit from those angels that provide soup and meal runs through out each city in Ireland. Is it not worth making our politicians and law makers work for us and support those in desperate need and reduce such cruel wastage.

The bill includes several measures against food waste.

 Registration in the environmental code of a hierarchy in the fight against food waste, from prevention to anaerobic digestion;

 Obligation to use a convention for donations made etween a distributor of food and a charity.

 Obligation for surfaces of over 400 m² to propose, within a period of one year from the enactment of this bill, a donation agreement with one or more associations for the recovery of their food still unsold consumables.

 prohibition of chlorination of unsold perishables

 information and education in the fight against food waste in schools;

 integrating the fight against food waste in reporting social and environmental businesses.

We as responsible adults should be more aware of what we are buying and when we are buying our foods. We should look at reducing bulk purchases of food in one go and at more regular intervals. We should also be more creative with any leftover food we may encounter along the way. How about using the leftover bread for bread crumbs, this is great crumbing chickens, making stuffing, toppings for a chicken and ham pasta bake.

Or what about making fish pies/cakes or homemade fish fingers. What about making our own stocks, soups and broths? I will finish by saying that we the Irish have ingenuity, creativity and passion. Let’s use these skills and reduce food wastage in Ireland.

In the past few months I had the privilege and honour to meet two young ladies from Dublin, who were part of a Food Rescue project called “Food Cloud”, who were coming to Cork from Dublin to Set up a similar project here and were looking for volunteers to join them. The aim of this noble project was to bring together both supermarkets who could donate food and reduce their food wastage costs and organisations who needed food for their members and residents.

The volunteers or food rangers as some call us would call on designated supermarkets at a designated time in the morning and the evening and collect any unwanted, good quality food that the supermarkets were about to throw out due to strict date controls. Let me clarify this a small bit, the food is perfect and will be for another two to three days but health and safety laws dictate that food must be discarded on the use by date on its label.

We sort, check and prioritise the food with the needs of the charity and deliver it straight to them. This is a double win for both the supermarket, who does not have to throw the food out and pay for the pleasure of discarding of perfect food and the organisations who receive it and can feed their members and redistribute the money they would have spent on the food to other more urgent projects.

Let me ask you this, as you go about your regular food shop, have you thought about the quantities of food you buy? Are you buying more than you need? Are you impulse buying because you are shopping on an empty stomach? Are you buying the products because they are strategically placed by the supermarkets to entice you to? Do you know how to use any leftovers from a family meal? Did you know by 2020 that we will dumping 120 million tonnes of food annually?

On one of my first few volunteering sessions we called to three supermarkets and collected over 16 crates of food. I had the pleasure of seeing the smiles of gratitude, excitement, wonder and satisfaction in their faces knowing that were getting wholesome food and would be well feed for the next few days. It was almost like being Santa for a few minutes.

As I continue to volunteer I began to learn more about the places I delivered these foods to who and the services that they provide to the community. I almost felt shame that some of these magnificent and unnoticed places were only a stone’s throw away from where I live and work and never knew that they existed. What started out as a passion and wanting to give back to the community became a life lesson about how blind we all can be in relation to the caring, over worked, unrecognised and underfunded charities and organisations that are in our communities.

If anyone was to ask me about what it takes to make a community and the work that carers and those who work with the underprivileged do. All I would say is volunteer for one night with “Food Cloud” and ask questions along the way. It will be an eye opener.

As a nation and a people who are known for their love of food and their generosity, we should be following the French and more recently the Italians who have brought in Legislation to food wastage in supermarkets and its compulsory donation to food banks and to those who need it the most.

I know it will be questioning the politicians and government about it. I think we all should.


French Law on Food Wastage

Irish Food wastage Statistics