Poverty and food waste
Almost every day on the main tv channels we witness programmes devoted to our indulgence in food. Whether it’s a competition or an exhibition there’s always one to see. The sheer level of consumption is mind blowing. Add to that the saturation levels of advertising by supermarkets and the huge growth of cookery books and magazines in shops and online. All of which contributes to us not only buying more and more ( and fuelling the obesity debate ) but leaving Western , industrial countries with a mountain of uneaten waste. In the UK millions of people live below the poverty line with the cost to their health incalculable and the cost to the country spiralling upwards all the time. Last year we produced 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of waste food, which is the equivalent to the weight of 33,000 London buses and only 2% was redistributed to charities.
FareShare -www.fareshare.org.uk/ –whose work includes distributing surplus food to over 1200 charities every day. Their statistics are not only frightening but obcene.
• 5.8 million people in the UK live in ‘deep poverty’, making it hard for them to afford every day essentials, including food.
• At the same time, 3.9 million tonnes of food is wasted every year by the food and drink industry. If just 1% of that food was fit-for-purpose and redistributed to FareShare, we would be able to provide food for 70 million meals.
Where it gets more complicated is that the government is spending millions in the construction and operation of anaerobic digestion plants to convert food waste into biogas. About 100,000 tonnes a year is converted in this way and the subsidies available make it more lucrative for the food companies to sell it to create green energy than feed the hungry. Obviously alternative energy sources are desirable and are high up most governments’ agendas as the world’s stock of fuels deteriorates but there is more than enough room for energy creation and combatting hunger. Surely it’s not beyond our ability to create more of a balance. As we sit and indulge ourselves in the glory of food and then add to the massive surplus we leave, just remember that the throwaway society we create also involves throwing away chances to improve the quality of many people’s lives which will cost us so much more in years to come. That’s the real waste.