Why this total waste of food saddens me

North Devon Gazette

On Monday evening, I had to pop into our small convenience store (run by a supermarket chain) to top up our electric key meter, it was about 9.30 at night, and by the till was a full trolley of swedes, bread and cabbages, all discounted to about 6p to 13p per item. Â

I asked the lady serving what was going to happen to the trolley and she explained, much to her disapproval, that by 10pm, if it hadn’t sold, it would all be thrown into the bin. Â

I asked her why she couldn’t just put it in a box outside the shop labelled ‘FREE’ and she said it wasn’t allowed. She also explained to me that there is a trolley like this each day. Â

It led me to think about just how many trolleys of good quality food, from every supermarket and convenience store in the entire country, every single day, were being thrown away if the food didn’t sell before it’s ‘sell by’ date. I felt so saddened and angry.Â

You see, at present, farmers are receiving a lot of stick and a lot of blame for climate problems. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many aspects of modern day, intensive, monocrop farming that I don’t agree with, (a style driven and encouraged by our governments, our policies and subsidies), however, type and way of farming aside, food waste clearly is a HUGE problem. Over 1/3 of all food produced in the world is thrown away.Â

If food production is one of the biggest polluters on this planet, then surely the fact that over 33% of its outputs are just thrown away is a pretty alarming? (And damn right insane?!)Â

Some people know that most food is fine to be eaten past its sell by date, but most do not, and this causes A LOT of waste. I believe sell by and use by dates need to be removed from all packaging…I mean we shouldn’t even be buying food that comes with packaging, but when it is, the law states that it has to have a date on it. Why? Â

There’s the ridiculous health and safety measures we have in this country for one, but I also think it’s a great tool to ensure people end up buying more. Sell by dates were only introduced in the UK in around 1970, before that, people used common sense to tell whether the food they were going to eat was still good by the smell and look of it.Â

It was quite ironic for the trolley incident to have happened that evening, as I had actually spent the day at an incredible permaculture farm in South Devon called the Apricot Centre, their practises were very inspiring, and on just 34 acres of land they were growing an abundance of high nutrient, organic food with a negative carbon impact. Â

They had built a robust local network and had so many different businesses and initiatives going on, on the farm and nearby, from milling flour, links with a local bakery, a bee keeper, a nut tree grower, they even had a link with a local sauerkraut factory to ensure there was no wastage of their cabbages if they couldn’t sell them, all whilst they were at their best. Â

34 ACRES!!!! Profitable, pesticide free and carbon NEGATIVE…. Just imagine if every 34 acres of land was farmed this way.Â

I want to finish with a quote from my favourite book, Local Futures, written by Helena Norberg-Hodge - ‘Supporters of industrialised agriculture would have us believe that farming today is more productive than ever – and that to feed the world we have to further intensify and globalise our food system. Â

‘Yet, despite all our pesticides, fertilisers, genetic modification and high-tech processing systems, a tragically large proportion of the global population still goes to bed hungry every night. This is because the goal of the globalised system is not to provide adequate, nutritious food for people, but to provide profits for large agribusinesses, supermarket chains and other transnational food corporations.’Â

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