One thousand people joined a symbolic moment in the centre of Turin this weekend to protest against waste, taking part in a communal meal created entirely from surplus supermarket food destined for the trash. The dinner, organized by Torino Spiritualità in collaboration with Slow Food, aimed to raise awareness on the enormous amount of edible food that the current food system wastes and the subsequent humanitarian and environmental impact.
Before the dinner, Slow Food President Carlo Petrini participated in a special conference alongside two other experts on the subject matter: Italian academic, economist and agronomist, Professor Andrea Segrè; and writer and historian Tristram Stuart, author of Waste and part of the freeganism movement, a lifestyle choice promoting the use of edible food discarded by supermarkets.
Stuart shed light on the exorbitant proportion of food produced in developed countries that is discarded at various stages of the food chain: The approximately 40 million tons of food wasted annually by US households, retailers and food services would be enough to feed the world’s one billion malnourished.
He provided examples of the grave inefficiencies which occur between farm and fork that are responsible for a significant proportion of waste, largely due to the increase in production of food as animal fodder rather than for human consumption. “Soy is now grown to feed pigs, which goes completely against the logic of why we domesticated pigs in the first place – to take our waste and turn it back into food for us,” he explained. European law, however, now prohibits feeding food waste to pigs due to concerns of foot and mouth disease, creating an “illogical legal system which forces ecological damage.”
The event was organized following the anti-waste principles of the Last Minute Market project organized by Professor Segrè which develops local operations to recuperate unsold food from supermarkets and deliver it to charities. Saturday’s dinner followed a similar occasion, held in December, 2009 in London’s Trafalgar Square, where 5,000 people were served curry, smoothies and fresh groceries from discarded food that otherwise would have been wasted.
“We are an urbanized population but that doesn’t mean we need to devalue food,” said Stuart. “I know it feels like far off governments and far off companies controlling this, but we as consumers can make it taboo and put pressure on the government. It is a massive problem but it is within our grasp to solve it. And for the sake of our children and our planet, we must.”
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FOOD WASTE FACTS
10% of rich countries’ greenhouse gas emissions come from growing food that is never eaten.
The UK, US and Europe have nearly twice as much food as is required by the nutritional needs of their populations. Up to half the entire food supply is wasted between the farm and the fork. If crops wastefully fed to livestock are included, European countries have more than three times more food than they need, while the US has around four times more food than is needed, and up to three-quarters of the nutritional value is lost before it reaches people’s mouths.
UK Households waste 25% of all the food they buy.
All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.
2.3 million tons of fish discarded in the North Atlantic and the North Sea each year; 40 to 60% of all fish caught in Europe are discarded – either because they are the wrong size, species, or because of the ill-governed European quota system.
An estimated 20 to 40% of UK fruit and vegetables rejected even before they reach the shops – mostly because they do not match the supermarkets’ excessively strict cosmetic standards.
8.3 million hectares of land required to produce just the meat and dairy products wasted in UK homes and in US homes, shops and restaurants. That is 7 times the amount of Amazon rainforest destroyed in Brazil in one year, largely for cattle grazing and soy production to export for livestock feed.
The bread and other cereal products thrown away in UK households alone would have been enough to lift 30 million of the world’s hungry people out of malnourishment.
4600 kilocalories per day of food are harvested for every person on the planet; of these, only around 2000 on average are eaten – more than half of it is lost on the way.
24 to 35% of school lunches end up in the bin.