Who is responsible for food waste?

The short answer: it’s all of us – governments and policy makers, businesses and organisations, communities, households and individuals. 

You, me, individuals, families, households…

Most of us could reduce our household food waste and also save a bit of money by planning and shopping thoughtfully, being savvy with leftovers and learning a few smart recipes. (For practical tips on reducing food waste for your household, check out lovefoodhatewaste.com )

Organisations, businesses, communities

Organisations and businesses also come up with imaginative solutions to food waste. Examples in Lincolnshire include: 

Sharing the surplus

In 2021, the Food Partnership brought together a consortium of foodbanks and community larders across Lincolnshire.

Together with the Lincolnshire Coop, the Lincoln Community Foundation and Fareshare Midlands, we established a food hub and distribution system to redirect perfectly good surplus food away from landfill and into foodbanks, community larders, food coops, membership supermarkets, low cost cafes, and other organisations across the county, with the help of volunteers. 

Photo: Stuart Wilde

These organisations and volunteers are motivated by kindness and solidarity to meet the urgent need of people in our communities facing an emergency.

Increasingly they are also needed by people who cannot afford to feed their families through the cost of living crisis, or get by on a day to day level.

(Please lend your support – there’s a map HERE if you need to find your nearest, and details of how to get involved.)

Systemic solutions to systemic problems

However, surplus food distribution by volunteers through foodbanks is not a long term solution to food waste or poverty: it is symptomatic of a terribly broken food system. 

It’s also a losing battle to lecture individuals on wasting food when the supermarket model is predicated on farmers overproducing, and customers over-purchasing, tempted by multi-purchase offers. 

Going upstream

A more holistic approach goes upstream for policies to address poverty head on, and applies “the polluter pays” principle. The real cost of food includes the environmental and social impact it has, including the cost of waste. 

Food culture change

Photo: Henry Kenyon

We can all participate in reducing food waste (with the necessary enabling policy) by understanding and valuing food, and cooking and eating in tune with seasonal and regional availability. 

This implies a deeper connection with food, farming and land than the supermarket shelves can offer us, such as:

  • urban spaces to grow food (community gardens and educational sites, allotment provision, well designed peri-urban land use);
  • time to take pleasure in cooking from scratch;
  • emphasis on food growing, cooking and taste exploration on the school curriculum and site, e.g. TastEd;
  • post 16 learning and training opportunities (we find Denmark’s MAD Academy particularly inspiring).

Taking a holistic perspective, the journey to a less wasteful food system need not and cannot be one of consumer guilt, but one of connection, fairness, health and enjoyment!

The article was published in March 2023 edition of the Lincoln Independent

Thank you Ticky!

Ticky Nadal is stepping down from her role as Food Partnership Coordinator at the end of March, to focus more on her work at Board Director at Mint Lane CIC. Ticky has done so much for the Food Partnership, especially working with foodbanks and community larders across the county; reducing food waste; championing healthy diets…

A Lincolnshire Breadbasket

I was recently in a meeting about agri food, when an academic said to me – Laura, remember that farmers don’t really have that much to do with food. At first I was taken aback, but there is a sense in which selling a crop into a global commodity market does create a fairly stunning…

Notes from the Tamar Valley

Food Partnership Coordinator, Laura Stratford, made a research trip to the Tamar Valley, an area of the country where the Open Food Network is being used to great effect, to see if Lincolnshire might take a leaf from their book… Accessing Local Food Lincolnshire produces a huge proportion of the nation’s food.  But if we,…

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