Lindsay Clowes and Lauren Schut of Halifax show off their new business card for FOUND
(Image from www.metronews.ca/news/halifax/2016/06/15/found-gets-off-the-ground-reduce-halifax-food-waste)
After both completing a masters degree in environmental studies, Halifax residents Lindsay Clowes and Lauren Schut began brainstorming ideas to reduce food waste. Focusing on food redirection, they came up with the idea for FOUND, an initiative that collects, saves and uses food that would other wise be destined for the trash.
The first two features of their three-pronged approach to reducing food waste include talking care of unsold produce at farmers’ markets and helping farmers outside the city get rid of unsalable produce by organizing volunteer harvest days. The third approach is to organize urban harvest events, which will see the harvesting of forgotten gardens around the city.
Members of the community are already taking great interest in the initiative. Farmers offer their extra or “unfit for market” produce, and organizations provide meals to people asking for their rescued goods. Clowes and Schut also plan to preserve unused food to resell.
Read more about FOUND’s story here.
More from 99% Invisible: “Separation Anxiety” explores how the country of Taiwan has employed alternative recycling and garbage collection schemes that put the onus for reducing waste back on the consumer at the household level. Using a mix of strategies, the country has tremendously reduced the amount of garbage it produces compared to 20 years ago. Strategies include “polluter pay”: charging householders for state-sanctioned, official trash bags (the bigger the size of the bag, the more expensive it is), offering free organic and recycling pick-up, and fining those who do not sort their recycling properly.
Garbage trucks come around to neighborhoods in Taipei and other large cities multiple times a week, and multiple times a day (mostly in the evenings). It is the responsibility of the citizens to be ready when the truck arrives (which heralds its coming with a classical song such as Fur Elise). The garbage truck is followed by a recycling truck with separate containers for plastics, glass, paper, raw and cooked food waste, and more.
The inclusion of everyday citizens in daily flows of garbage removes the invisibility of waste that seems to characterize most “modern” cities. Would reclaiming waste from the margins of society and making it more visible change our current, wasteful practices?
A recent study (“Wasted positive intentions: the role of affection and abundance on household food waste“) has drawn a connection between affection and food waste.
The study interviewed 20 participants in Brazil and found that caregivers typically express affection by providing large amounts of food to children and guests. Over-serving food and keeping a stocked fridge for any occasion is an important part of Brazilian cultural, according to the study’s author, Gustavo Porpino. This is especially true for mothers, who often “do everything they can to fit the traditional role of a ‘good mother'”. However, as this study has found, despite the caregiver’s best intentions this behavior can result in wasted food and therefore, wasted money.
In order to reduce food waste, Porpino suggests that people be educated on the link between wasted food and wasted money. Programs on how to properly buy, store and portion food would also prove beneficial for families, who would save money while reducing food waste.
Read more about the study here, and a summary as discussed on CTV News here.
A 2013 study by Emily Broad Leib has received recent media coverage in the US on the podcast 99% Invisible. Best before dates are confusing, contribute a great deal to food waste, and tend to be regulated sector-by-sector, rather than in a cohesive, comprehensive, federal way.
The episode gives a brief history of best before dates in the United States, and urges listeners to use more “common sense” when deciding when to throw out food such as milk or other refrigerated products. It attempts to demystify a common fear of consumers: hearing a news story of a listeria outbreak, or a friend who contracted salmonella, and then looking to the date as the definitive “throw out” date.
The episode builds off growing interest in Best Before Dates in the US following a survey by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, the National Consumer League and Johns Hopkins University Center for Livable Future. The survey reported that over 1/3 of adults regularly throw out food due to mistaken interpretations of what the Best Before Date means. Additionally, many respondents believed that Best Before Dates were federally mandated, even though a majority of date labeling is at the producer/distributor’s discretion.
Parts of Europe, especially in the UK, have made strides in banning all dates except for expiry dates in hopes that it will lead to less food waste at both the retailer and consumer levels. With the US EPA recently pledging to reduce food waste in half by 2030, a reform on inconsistent date labeling may be a good place to start.
For a list of media coverage relating to Leib’s study in particular, and food waste in general, check out Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation here.
You can listen to the podcast here:
Delegates from across America (including award-winning chefs) recently took part in a food waste review conducted by the House Agricultural Committee, an organization that oversees agricultural policy in the United States. The hearing was centered on current issues relating to food waste and initiated an imperative discussion on future policies and solutions. Participants heard from a variety of actors and industry leaders, who spoke about the need to reduce food waste along the commodity chain.
The review has spanned two days so far and has been spearheaded by many prominent industry actors such as Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America, who aims to raise consciousness of the paradox of excess food waste existing alongside poverty and hunger in the U.S. In her statement at the hearing, Aviv emphasized the importance of food rescue and food waste redirection to charity organizations that serve those in need. According to Aviv, Feeding America and its charity networks provided 3.7 billion meals in 2015 with food that would have otherwise been destined for the trash.
This is a very positive step forward for food waste reduction in America and I hope to see a similar event in Canada in the near future, possibly with participation from organizations such as Second Harvest.
You can read further on the food waste review and its progress here.
(Participants in the May 25th Food Waste Review. Image from http://agriculture.house.gov)
The global food waste problem is about to get a whole lot more attention. At the recent Global Green Growth Forum 2016 summit in Copenhagen, the world’s first Food Loss and Waste protocol was launched on June 6th. Created by a team of partner organizations, the protocol has created a universal standard that “provides requirements and guidance for quantifying and reporting on the weight of food and/or associated inedible parts removed from the food supply chain”. The FLW protocol aims to encourage corporations, countries and organizations to reduce food waste by providing them with a “starter kit” full of information and skills, all concerning issues surrounding food waste issues.
A global standard could prove vital to nations wishing to adopt new food waste reduction strategies. Though an increasing number of nations are implementing policies to reduce food waste such as Italy and France, the classification and measurement of waste remains ambiguous among different nations.
Given the recent spotlight on food waste in the international stage, it will be interesting to see how the standards will be received. The 160-page document contains detailed strategies on everything from food waste data collection to tips on how to identify key causes of waste. Its validity and depth appears encouraging; now, we must wait to see how global actors will respond.
You can read more about the FLW Protocol, including the full document here.