FoPo, Food Powder

Image result for fopo

While dehydrating food, or making food powder isn’t a completely novel idea, grad students at Lund University in Sweden are taking a new approach with their product-FoPo: their food powder brand which they believe will help tackle hunger, food waste and nutrition. The freeze-dried food powder has a shelf life of around 2 years, and is made from foods which are nearly past their prime and may not otherwise be sold. The students are taking technology which isn’t exactly new, but proposing a new look at the food value chain. FoPo involves buying up would be food waste and removing the moisture and converting it to powder form, thereby extending its life from a few days to a few years while maintaining its nutritional properties. It can then be resold to stores, food manufacturers and NGOs or relief organizations. The powdered form also maintains nutrients in the food and could be used as an addition to water, smoothies, soups, ice cream, etc. FoPo has already gained momentum as a runner up in the 2014 Food for Thought challenge, winner of the Ben and Jerrry’s Join-Our-Core  competition, and a Staff Pick on Kickstarter. The team is now running a pilot program in Manila, Philippines and is to begin working with the United Nation’s Initiative on Food Loss and Waste to find other ways to use FoPo to curb  waste and feed the food insecure.

http://www.foodincanada.com/research-and-development/team-turns-food-waste-into-usable-food-powder-called-fopo-131712/

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John Oliver takes on food waste

Food waste took center stage on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Oliver basically summed up all the problems of food waste in a hilarious but also sobering rant. He quite thoroughly confronted the problem of food waste in America, including the paradox of food insecurity in the face of massive waste, the environmental impact of food waste, and the financial costs as well.

Oliver says, “Food waste is like the band Rascal Flatts: it can fill a surprising number of stadiums even though most people consider it complete garbage.”   Check out the whole video (although fair warning – it isn’t entirely G rated):

Who’s helping fight food waste

The Guardian has run numerous articles on the topic of food waste, including one highlighting a few waste warriors in the area of food loss and waste. Check out some inspiring stories about people and organizations who are making a difference in the world of food waste, including charities who rescue food and serve up meals, and tech savvy entrepreneurs who link farmers and buyers or retailers and volunteers for pick ups.  Read their stories here. 

“Bon Appétit!” – Paris implements Climate & Energy Action Plan that rethinks waste and its food system

By Samantha Pascoal, Applied Human Nutrition Student & Research Assistant

Paris food waste

Paris, a romantic metropolis known for its croissants, La Seine and the Eiffel tower will hopefully soon be known for its forward-thinking Climate and Energy Action Plan implemented in 2007.   The plan has ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, and also calls for increased use of renewable energy.  Parisian residents, restaurants, and industries have adopted sustainable consumption strategies that generate less waste in order to achieve these goals.

Creating a more sustainable food system, and thus a more circular economy, has been an instrumental strategy.  This has involved…

  • A Sustainable Food Plan, which promotes sustainable food products (organic, in-season and local) agriculture in municipal and departmental restaurants;
  • Consideration of the creation of a central purchasing office for large industries, to help them find reliable sources of innovative products that have sustainable life cycles;
  • The shortening of supply chains, making local food a reality in Paris; and
  • A Local Waste Prevention Programme (PLPD) that reduces household waste: working toward a 15% reduction from 2007 levels by 2020.

What are Parisian residents and stakeholders encouraged to do to ensure future progress?
To tackle the high levels of preventable wastes such as food and packaging, the Paris PLPB proposes a suite of strategies:

  • Educating citizens about their waste production;
  • Promoting the purchase of minimally-packaged products (tap water, bulk food);
  • Encouraging citizens to deal with toxic, electronic, and medical wastes responsibly through the comprehensive hazardous wastes management stream; and
  • Demonstrating good practices by improving practices by Paris administration.

Other metropolises around the world could learn and benefit from similar procedures.

Positive and dramatic change has already been observed as a result of the implementation of these strategies.  For example, atmospheric pollution from food waste decreased from 521,000 to 484,000 (Tonnes C02 equivalent) between 2004 and 2009.  A total reduction of 35 kg of household and similar waste per resident was seen between 2006-2010, compared with the 23 kg per resident reduction expected within that time.  Overall, the Climate and Energy Action Plan has overseen the reduction in general greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption in Paris, and an increase in used renewable energy sources.  The case in Paris shows that by focusing on decreasing waste and re-formatting food systems, the human impact on the environment can be considerably reduced.

Pope Francis denounces food waste

Even the pope is calling out food waste. On June 11, in an address to delegates of the FAO, Pope Francis encouraged Member States to work toward combating food waste,  particularly in light of food insecurity in the world. He expressed concern over the current state of global food waste stating, “It is unsettling to know that a good portion of agricultural products end up used for other purposes, maybe good, but that are not immediate needs of the hungry.”  Significantly, he also acknowledged the system of consumerism that promotes over-consumption and perpetrates waste. He urged consumers to make changes to their lifestyles in order to reduce waste and live more sustainably.  “Sobriety is not in opposition to development, indeed it is now clear that the one is a necessary condition for the other.”

While I may not be on the same page as the Pope on every issue, I can stand by him on this one. Hopefully his comments will influence his audience of delegates, but also the many followers who value his teachings.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/days-before-encyclicals-release-pope-condemns-culture-of-waste-26511/

http://www.onuitalia.com/eng/2015/06/11/pope-francis-to-fao-stop-food-waste-food-for-all-people/

Arash Derambarsh bringing the French food waste ban to the EU

The French councillor, Arash Derambarsh, the man behind the legislative change in France which requires supermarkets to donate excess food, has continued to ride the momentum of success and media to try to bring the initiative to the EU. The proposed amendment calls on the European commission to “promote in member states the creation of conventions proposing that retail food sector distribute their unsold products to charity associations” On July 9, MEPs included the food waste amendement last minute as a part of an adopted resolution on the “circular economy”. Derambarsh hopes to have the issue of food waste tabled at the United Nations later this year. The new legislation in France sparked some debate as to if this is really the  best way to combat waste, or if it is a well meaning, but misguided move. So while food waste should be on the EU agenda, should it be so quick to support this particular tactic, before the consequences in France have even been seen?

In May Arash Derambarsh (centre) succeeded in persuading the French government to pass a law  forcing supermarkets to donate products near their sell-by date to charities.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jul/07/campaign-to-cut-supermarket-food-waste-reaches-european-parliament

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/09/french-food-waste-councillor-calls-on-ec-supermarkets-law

Probing the “Rescue Food: End Hunger” Parable

At a recent food-waste event, the manager of a leading food-recovery charity joked to the audience, “We want to reduce food waste, but at the same time, we want it because we use it to feed hungry people”.

Hold on!

This comment suggests that food waste is the solution for food insecurity in the city.

This rhetoric is enormously problematic

Upon questioning, the speaker admitted her comment was made lightly. Knowing and respecting her, I can verify that it is uncharacteristic of her actual morals and work. Nevertheless, I employ her comment because it represents an entire discourse in the food waste and food security worlds. Consider, for a moment, these screen-clips from websites of leading North American food-recovery charities:

Food Recovery Screen Clips

Each draws a connection between hungry mouths and excess/surplus food. At first glance, you can’t be blamed for thinking that food-insecurity and food waste are two problems that together, solve each other.

-What to do with all these hungry people? Give them surplus food!

-What to do with all this surplus food? Give it to hungry people! Win, win, win. Problems solved!

But in reality, each is a discrete and gargantuan problem. We cannot be complacent believing that the current food recovery and donation model can solve both. Allow me to illustrate:

Misunderstanding #1: Aren’t food recovery groups doing a terrific job diverting food from landfills?

Sure! Food recovery groups play a critical role in saving food before it becomes “waste.” I strongly believe in them, and volunteer myself. But we cannot forget that they represent David against the Goliath that is food waste globally.

Any conversation that portrays food recovery as the solution for food waste is misleading. In reality, the scale of food waste is gargantuan. For instance, refer to City Harvest’s outstanding accomplishment above: they rescue 136,000 lbs of edible food EVERY DAY in New York City. However, consider that against the ~11,532,000 lbs of food waste the city generates daily…and it quickly becomes apparent that food recovery is not a meaningful solution for an overwhelming food waste crisis.

WastED_2 Waste vs Recovery NYC

Overall, less than 5% of food waste in America is diverted from landfills[1], and this encompasses all forms of diversion (biogas, composting, animal fodder, not just food charities).

 

Well, great! That must mean that everyone’s got more than enough to eat! Actually, no. Now let’s consider the other problem in this situation:

Misunderstanding #2: Isn’t the vast quantity of food waste a terrific way to solve hunger?

Unfortunately, even with unimaginable levels of food being thrown out, food banks and charities are unable to eliminate hunger. They are far from reaching all food-insecure individuals. Food Banks Canada, for instance, reported serving 374,698 Canadians in 2014…only a sliver of the 1.2 million Canadians who experience food insecurity.

WasteED_3 Food Bank Usage

Many reasons account for this, including access or informational barriers, unsuitable food offerings, and the sense of shame associated with charity food procurement[2]. In short, the charity food recovery model does not have the capacity to end hunger. So when considering Feeding America’s mission of “solving hunger” and “feeding America’s hungry” (see above), we must question if this current charity-based strategy will ever bring this goal to fruition.

 

Food Recovery is not SOLVING food waste or hunger. So what could work?

Let’s be clear: food banks and soup kitchens were designed to fill a short-term need. However, every year more people come to depend on them, thanks to the retreat of government from social service provision and escalating levels of poverty.

Charity cannot end hunger. Hunger is an issue of poverty; and poverty is a problem for policy.

Luckily, some organizations are recognizing the limitations of the charitable food-recovery model and turning toward the core issues.

On the hunger front, some groups are starting to work beyond food handouts. They are looking “upstream” to address issues such as housing, inadequate wages, and the lack of social services for the most vulnerable.[3]

WastED_4 FoodShare

Addressing these deeper issues will help lift people out of poverty, making them less dependent on food charity. FoodShare, for example, engages in advocacy in tandem with its food-hamper handouts. Community Food Centres Canada runs food-skills education and advocacy groups alongside its food access programs. Their efforts focus attention squarely on government, highlighting that the voluntary sector ought not, and cannot be responsible for the problems of hunger and poverty.

Meanwhile, on the food waste front, groups such as Feeding5K, the Pig Idea, and LoveFoodHateWaste are working to identify the policy levers and affect change that will meaningfully reduce the amount of food waste being created.

Over to You!

As individuals, we can help immensely by volunteering with food recovery organizations. But it is incumbent upon us to work for deeper change. This front-line work should only be part of our efforts, because the core problems of food waste and food insecurity need deeper policy change. I invite you to explore the organizations in your hometown that are working for long-term change, and contribute half of your energies into immediate short-term relief, but another half into advocacy for long-term structural change. Let’s work together, on various fronts, to eliminate these problems.

[1] http://thecorr.org/programs_food_waste.php

[2] Loopstra, Rachel, and Valerie Tarasuk. 2012. “The Relationship between Food Banks and Household Food Insecurity among Low-Income Toronto Families.” Canadian Public Policy 38 (4): 497–514.

[3] http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/cathycrowe/2014/12/socks-are-not-enough-social-justice-lies-upstream-charity#.VImkSEh7z-4.twitter