Why aren’t we more food friendly?

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Spring 2016


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…


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!

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.


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


Abbie says:

Interesting read!

As a previous employee of a supermarket, I’ve seen plenty of food simply be disposed of, rather than being given another life.

In my opinion, although there is more than should be done in order to reduce landfill, often the problem is the restrictions and regulations given surrounding food that limits what people can do.

For example, sell by dates, contamination, etc. If these were to be regulated and perhaps given specific exceptions so maybe they’re donated to homeless shelters that would be amazing!

Thank you Abbie. I agree that sell by and use by dates should be regulated more. Sell by dates are a legality issue but use by dates often put people off even though sometimes the food is perfectly edible.

Crazy how much food is wasted! FareShare sounds really good though. Would be good if any event, not just festivals, that has left over food would just go on the streets (with a table of something during clear up time) and hand out the leftovers to anyone who wants them… I feel like some events could think that they paid for it so why should people get it for free which is a shame… maybe have a donation box for a charity or the event on a leftover food stall after the event! Or it would be great if events contacted the nearest soup kitchen or homeless shelter to say they’re having an event and might have leftover food to bring on that day! Really interesting blog, something I hadn’t thought much about before! Thanks for posting 🙂

Daisy says:

A really interesting read. I feel food waste is a big problem within the UK and especially festivals. The idea to lead attendees to put their leftovers in compost bins is a great idea and should be implemented at all events. Do you feel event organisers need to have a close relationship with their food providers to ensure food waste is kept to a minimum?

Thank you for your comment. Yes I do feel that event organisers need to have a closer relationship with food providers as this will ensure that they are not over purchasing food, allowing food to be wasted and not sold or eaten.

Sarah says:

Great post and a good point to highlight. I do think that so much food is wasted at festivals today. Something needs to be done.

Thank you Sarah, I agree, something needs to be done.

Tom Alston says:

Very interesting! Agree completely with what you’re saying

Thank you for your comment Tom.

The Pounder says:

Interesting, however I feel like there’s wider issue being completely ignored here;

Animal agriculture is scientifically proven, and prominently documented by CNN reports to be a leading cause of deforestation and climate change worldwide.

The idea that putting a burger in a composte bin is absolute bollocks when that same burger, or cow, to use its less commonly documented name, took the equivalent of 2 months of shower water and unearthly amounts of natural resource to produce, and slaughter.

If event caterers really want to provide a sustainable solution, they should be moving towards a catering outlook that utilises more wholesome and healthy vegetarian options rather than pulling the slaughtered wool over people’s eyes by claiming to be ‘environmentally friendly’ and providing a sustainable answer to resource wastage.

If people think short term fixes like throwing food in a composte bin is a sustainable solution to a worldwide issue then they’ll be equally as happy to watch us drown in 50 years, rather than the 40 that their ‘feel good, I’m so eco-friendly solutions’ are currently promoting.

Thank you for your comment, a a very interesting argument raised. I do agree with what your saying and some festivals such as Shambala have looked at only supplying vegetarian food at their festivals and are looking to implement these in the near future. However, some may say that by not providing meat, then this is not catering for their needs, which is what the hospitality and events industry is all about?
By composting, we are taking a small step to a bigger issue with view to helping the environment in the long run?

Tom says:

A very enlightening read! I have worked in company’s where so much food was waisted but never really understood why and could be done as a solution.
I have learnt alot from this, some very valod points raised.

Fareshare does seem like a good soultion and never really hurd of them until reading this artical.

Thank you Tom, I agree more charities like FareShare are needed within the industry.

Katy says:

This is a very relevant issue. When I work for the University at open days there’s always whole trays of sandwiches left over that we aren’t allowed to give to the homeless people in the city for legal reasons. This is definitely something I think should be tackled!

andyscullin says:

Those statistics just show how shocking the issue is. I agree that more should be done to prevent wastage of food. I’m very open to the idea of giving the food that would otherwise be wasted to charities and homeless shelters, unfortunately the legislation says otherwise. Nonetheless, much more needs to be done to prevent food wastage.

Georgina Peacop says:

Some really good points in this post, I think everyone needs to think more about ways to stop wasting so much food.

Lynn says:

Interestingly since February of this year France has made it legal that supermarkets have to donate unsold food to charities and food banks. This was started at grassroots level and built up such a following that the government were forced to take action. Perhaps this is what we should be doing in Britain and event caterers may also be included?

Thank you for your comment Lynn. I agree, I think Britain should have procedures and laws like this in place.

Jack says:

This really puts into context how much food is wasted by the events industry. Thank you for highlighting a very important issue.

Diana Perry says:

Good points in this post, food management needs to improve if we are to feed the world in ever growing populations

Thank you for your comment, I agree if we are to feed the ever growing population, something needs to be done to ensure sustainable development.

sally says:

People need reminding and made aware of the shocking food wastage that goes on especially within the catering industry and supermarkets. So easy to turn a ‘blind eye’ but the more people that make an effort, starting of course at home, and urge businesses to adopt a responsible attitude the better. A good article highlighting the problems.

Thank you for your post Sally! I agree, people are turning a blind eye to this important matter!

Pippy says:

Shocking statistics, it’s definitely an issue that needs more attention drawn to it. Completely agree with the conclusion that we should acknowledge the problems head on. I used to work in a hotel where a ridiculous amount of food was wasted. There should be more charities to help with this issue or it should become part of company’s CSR schemes to support local charities that help people with insufficient food. Very interesting article to read that draws our attention to an important issue.

Thank you for your comment Pippy, and yes I do agree that with more charities set up to crack down on food waste, it could make a big difference. CSR is definitely also something to think about.

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