Why aren’t we more food friendly?
1st March 2016
ARE YOU WASTING FOOD?
Have you ever thrown food away simply because you left it at back of the fridge for too long? Or being an event caterer, have you discarded unwanted stock just because you may have ordered too much of a particular product? Don’t forget to look at the pictures of fresh food highlighted throughout this post…why are we throwing this away?
A study conducted in 2008 by WRAP highlighted that the UK wastes over 6.7 million tonnes of food annually, an alarming figure considering those in less fortunate countries who struggle to provide enough food and water for their families every day. Although this figure is now thought to have dropped to just over 4.2 million tonnes of food and drink waste annually, this is still a staggering number worth over £12.5 billion (WRAP, 2012). WRAP also highlighted that 25% of all avoidable food waste is thrown away in an unopened state. But how does this fit within the events industry I hear you asking…
FOOD WASTE WITHIN EVENTS
As event professionals, we are always aiming to provide our customers and clients with the best experience we can offer which often ensures keeping their tummies full. We pride ourselves on giving our customers excellent service which includes catering for their individual needs. However, this can come at a price…
3.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food and drink industry every year, including events serving food, such as festivals (FareShare, 2016). A further 10% of this food thrown away is fit for consumption…enough for 800 million meals. That’s a staggering number when we think about how many people that could have fed!
SO WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
Some may ask why so much food is thrown away, even though it may still be fit for consumption? One main reason is the difficulty in predicting numbers of expected consumers. The amount of food required at a particular festival will depend on the Crowd Number Forecasting (CNF) (O’Toole, 2010) and whether or not this has been done accurately, which can sometimes be tricky. One interesting idea for suppliers is to order certain numbers of food in relation to the predicted weather forecast at the time (Cohen, 2011). Is this a peculiar way of looking at food consumption and minimising wastage or actually a logical tactic? Used by some major supermarkets, is this a procedure that is or should be used for event suppliers?
Alternatively, an event supplier may want to order in more food, with a view to making as much money as possible, despite this not being the most moral way of thinking with so much food going to waste each year. However some would say, with the growing number of charities able to donate the unused food to those who need it, such as FareShare, both businesses and vulnerable people are benefitting. Although by over ordering, is this just creating unnecessary work for the charities who already have so much to do to save perfectly edible food from going to landfill? Suppliers should be implementing procedures that don’t allow them to order excessive amounts of food.
Other ideas to think about as an event food supplier or organiser include:
- Clearly labelling food waste or composting bins.
- Ensuring staff are positioned around the bins to ensure appropriate recycling and to stop any potential contamination from food waste being put in the wrong bin.
- Encouragement to donate unused and fit for consumption food.
CONSUMER POINT OF VIEW
However, looking at food wastage from a consumer point of view is very different. What do you do with that half a burger that you couldn’t quite finish? While most would head towards the nearest bin, some festivals are now encouraging you to use compost bins. In basic terms, this then means that the food will eventually break down into compost over time. However, the government (Gov,uk, 2013) states that anaerobic digestion is actually better environmentally so this will need to be disposed appropriately to ensure a sustainable future for our environment.
Another concept that has been developed is the idea of ‘Love Your Leftovers’. This sees event food suppliers handing out plastic storage containers so that any leftover food that you haven’t managed to finish can be stored to be eaten at a later time whilst at the festival, (Abergavenny Food Festival, 2015), however if these plastic pots are only being used once, surely this is creating unnecessary waste which will then go to landfill if not recycled? Although food waste will be decreased slightly because customers will ideally be eating any leftover food, unless the plastic boxes are recycled, this will create more waste, highlighting this as an idea of being ‘more sustainable’ slightly contradictory.
One key point from this, as highlighted by Finn (2014) is that we should no longer leave hunger challenges to the next generation especially with the growing amount of food wastage within events. We should acknowledge the problems head on and make use of valuable charities such as FareShare who do a fantastic job in making sure that those in need can take advantage of food wastage from festivals around the UK. Together let’s be more sensible about our food usage…
What do you think? Should more be done to stop food waste from going to landfill?
Photos sourced from: www.pixabay.com