Food sustainability

Saving food in lockdown

Food banks have a critical role in this lockdown. They have bestowed so much to those who are vulnerable or cannot afford what they need. Seeing the crucial importance of these services has made us appreciate the food we have much more. Doubtless we want to mitigate food waste as much as we can during these times. Hopefully, I can give some advice.

We, the consumer, first come into contact with food fairly late in the chain of production – at the supermarket. No doubt many of you will have observed the strategic layout of shops; essentials positioned at the back, making people walk through a long corridor of temptations. This is to entice everyone to buy as much as possible, whether they need it or not. However, there is one way to combat this tactic; coming prepared with a list. This is such a simple tip, yet many don’t bother. Always come organised. That way, we buy only what we need.

We all love our fruit and veg, but there is a mania with perfection. There is nothing wrong with buying a moderately deformed carrot. If we can get over the aesthetic challenges of such food, we can reduce colossal waste. In the US alone, 133 billion pounds of food is discarded annually. Wasting food also means squandering the resources that were used to grow and transport it. Here, that is wasting 70 times the amount of oil in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Egregious statistics for a finite planet.

The home. Probably the most critical stage at which we can reduce food waste. We can further our organisation here with some meal planning; knowing what meals we will have adds an extra level of preparation to a shopping list. Even the smallest changes here mean a lot in the long term. For one, we can switch to smaller portions, considering the standard plate is 36% larger than it was 50 years ago. By taking only what we need, we can lessen the urge to throw away the food we cannot eat. Innovate with bits of food typically thought to be destined for the bin. Potato peel can make handy crisps. With bruised fruit, add milk and blend to make a delicious smoothie. Attempt to devote one night to finishing leftovers. And if you must waste, don’t throw away any meat products – it’s always meat that costs the most resources and carbon to farm. Instead, stew!

The lockdown has demonstrated that we cherish our food more. Studies have shown that 57% of a representative sample are attempting to curtail waste. But how? One way is to grow your own produce. Sounds fancy but planting some coriander seeds (which can be found online for £1.80 for 250g) goes a long way. You can even cultivate your own from supermarket stock. When you chop an onion, hold on to the last half-inch of the bulb and roots. Submerge in a glass of water, leaving the stem uncovered, and a new onion will grow! Home-grown food is more sustainable because it saves resources and cuts down on ‘food miles’. See Umar and Yousuf’s video below for an intuitive understanding of the concept.

So, we reach the end. I hope somewhere along the way you have taken a few of these tips to heart. Perhaps try them out – who knows? You’ll be surprised by what you achieve. As we all do our bit to crack down on food waste, we transcend our individual self and become part of something far, far greater. 

Joshua Bobin

Food carbon emissions

Yusuf Tayyebi and Umar Ashraf

Author: Joshua Bobin, Yusuf Tayyebi and Umar Ashraf