Food waste is an issue gaining increasing awareness around the world. The UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Committee classified food waste as ‘a global public policy issue’ in its 2017 report. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year. The UK Government has further acknowledged ‘food waste is an issue requiring urgent action throughout the world’.
In the UK, it is estimated that 10 million tonnes of food and drink waste arises post-farmgate each year in the UK, 60% of which could have been avoided. Although actions have led to a reduction of 1.6 million tonnes in the UK’s annual food waste arisings compared to 2007, there is much more to do. Modelling suggests that, without further intervention, food waste may increase again by 1.1 million tonnes by 2025.
Food waste has economic, environmental and social implications and impacts. Economically, food waste has a cost to households and causes increased disposal costs to local authorities. The environmental impact is significant, both in terms of the impact of producing food, which is then wasted, and in terms of the additional emissions of food disposed of via landfill. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) 4 estimates that UK food waste is associated with greenhouse gas emissions of over 20 million tonnes, with approximately three-quarters of those emissions arising in the UK and the remainder overseas. Globally, the World Resources Institute has stated that food loss and waste, were it a country, would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after the United States and China. Finally, wastage of food raises social questions, when others are struggling with food shortages both in the UK and abroad.
Fortunately, there are groups working to change this right here at LSE. FoodCycle is an award-winning national charity centred around themes of waste prevention and awareness of food poverty and isolation that has gained increasing traction with LSE’s student body. With its first cook in 2009, the charity has been combining volunteers and surplus food to improve nutrition and reduce hunger by cooking healthy meals for those in need. From strengthening communities by way of providing warm meals to shifting attitudes on food by cooking with surplus ingredients, FoodCycle has been active in raising awareness on food poverty and food waste.
The Beaver met with Isabelle Puletz, the current FoodCycle President. Isabelle talked about the ambition to make the charity better known and a part of the conversation with students. One of the ways they are doing this is by collaborating with other societies, like in their recent ‘Disco Soup’ event with the Jazz Society.
Isabelle invites anyone interested in environmental issues to join the society, especially, she says, if you’ve “already gotten involved with bigger charities focused on, say, plastic or green energies. This can be an alternative environmental issue worth looking into, as important as the rest. And oftentimes forgotten.” She values the rewarding aspect of FoodCycle: “With every food collection, and every message that you spread to save food, you are already making a difference”.
Finally, she emphasised the sense of community so characteristic of the society: “there is definitely a community out there, especially since there are volunteering communities raising awareness on the matter, volunteers cooking food, but also all of us society members, organising events and getting together”.
For more information on FoodCyle visit their website.