Beware the squanderbug

11 January, 2013

We don’t waste food. Well. We waste it MOST reluctantly. It has to be green as Kermit, hard as a rock or hairy as a wilderbeast to make it into our compost bin. So we probably waste the same amount as most people, but if it sits in our fridge first for 3 weeks eyeballing us, that makes it waaaay better, no?!

Yesterday, spreading like a layer of fur over month old spaghetti came the awareness that up to half of all food produced goes in the bin. Doesn’t make it into the mouth of a single soul. It is like the world buys a chocolate gateaux, carves itself off a humongous slice and then slides the rest straight onto the floor and stamps on it.

Oh, world. You squanderbug.

Last night I was flicking through a book of wartime posters I got from my local Oxfam bookshop and came across some amazing ones about food waste. How up in arms we were then! I hope that yesterday’s research gets us equally proactive.

I wanted to share these cool vintage images with you, but also take the chance to add my own tuppence into the furry mix.

Waste Food war poster

A moment’s reflection takes it from being eyepoppingly shocking to heartachingly painful. That we could be so wasteful, that we could throw away food when ONE in EIGHT people go to bed hungry. There is a real injustice in that. And the utter travesty, the disrespect. That lives are being poured into producing crops, that people who are hungry work their fingers to the bones to get food on our plates and then it doesn’t even make it there.

Last year my family and I lived on a joint food budget of £2.50 a day for a week, as part of the challenge Live Below the Line. Cor, I was hungry. And I actually broke the rules. You see, I COULD NOT BEAR walking past bins of scrapped fruit and veg at our local market, knowing that I was facing a dry meal of budget rice. So I raided the bins, with my daughter in tow, while everyone looked on. It was completely humiliating.

But these global bins, into which 30-50% of our food waste goes isn’t even raidable. It isn’t even a case of people putting dignity on hold just to eat.

These ideas of respect and of dignity, of human worth and value, don’t often get mentioned when we rush too hurriedly to talk about fridge temperatures and Best Before dates.
Save Food vintage poster

In the last 24 hours, there has been, brilliantly, loads of talk about how we can save food, how to judge products better, search for more sustainable means of getting produce. But as Ben Phillips of Oxfam points out the problem is two fold. There is a problem here in the UK, to do with our own kitchens and supermarkets, but there is also another dimension, a lack of infrastructure to support farmers in developing countries, where sometimes whole fields of crops go to waste. There are whole countries where farmers are the very back bone (and do you know, the majority are women? And hungry?) but where they have no rights, no roads, no advocacy and support. Despite being incredibly skilled, dedicated and hard working.

The world is messed up, we have dodgy governments, injustice riddled throughout and we have these awful, wasteful ways. I’m such an optimist though. I honestly think people are awesome. We only have to cast about a few generations to see how much we have achieved. We are, albeit too incrementally, getting better. We are eradicating illness, busting up institutional Isms, creating climate-saving technologies. We are coming up with solutions, working things out. And I think we can do it here.

We can make a raid on hunger.

It’s a complex situtation, eh, so let’s got for a multi-faceted response. How about:

Grow food war poster

I’d love to hear your response to the research, and what you are hoping to do…


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  • Reply Rebekah Pugh 11 January, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Fab post! Food was the makes me very sad – read our take on it here

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 11 January, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Wow, what a huge challenge you have set yourselves! HAve read with interest. x

  • Reply Aloadofoldtat 11 January, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    We lost the plot after the war, when scraps would be used to feed pigs. I am not a saint when it comes to food waste but do my best. Living next door to a couple who lived through the war taught me a thing or two, their waste bin was never overflowing, they grew their own, kept chickens and made do. I fear for the next generation of pensioners because they will not have a clue how to be frugal.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 11 January, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      Yup, so true. Even things as simple as best before dates- my nana and Grandad would never chuck something out before giving it a little taste!!

  • Reply Lady Demelza 12 January, 2013 at 9:54 am

    A few days ago I was shopping and found heaps of good, cheap summer fruit, and stocked right up… I bet you can guess what was happening, it was going off quicker than we were eating it up… but today I opened up some opportunities for the old or unripe fruit and ended up with two big jars of ‘Random Jam.’ Totally yummy, if I do so say so myself. I’m feeling very virtuous for having learnt to make jam and saving the fruit from squander.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 13 January, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      YES this is the thing to do! When I am on to it, when I notice things are looking a tiny wee bit past their best I just pop them straight in the freezer and use them from there. The kale we get in our box is always going limp so now it goes straight in their, it is actually easier to use from frozen.

  • Reply lally young 12 January, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    It is so sad, when you hear about supermarkets not accepting wonky carrots, or funny shapped potatoes, it saddens me. Why does everything in this world have to be perfect!! Imperfection is perfection in my eyes and I love grow your own.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 13 January, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      I agree, nothing beats getting a weirdly shaped veggie in my organic box!

  • Reply Shinypigeon 21 January, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    we have a postcard size print of the potluck one above our oven. I love all the ministry of food posters from ww 2. Advertising to live your life by.

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