waste here. hunger there.

waste here. hunger there.

There's a story that goes: a billion people currently go hungry every day. By 2050 the global population will have increased by another 2 billion, therefore things are going to get much worse and the only way to solve this crisis is to substantially increase the amount of food produced and the only way to do this is by making the shift to genetically modified crops (GMOs).

Nice try Monsanto.  

According to Oxfam in the " global economic crisis" currently shifting power and influence, the "annual income of the richest 100 people is enough to end global poverty four times over" and that's LESS than was spent on two years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So poverty is not the result of a lack of wealth to go round, it's a question of distribution. And it's the same with food, except with food there's another factor - wastage. Tragically one billion people do go hungry everyday and at the same time another billion people are obese.

The developed world consumes a disproportionate amount of food. The US alone consumes 200 billion more calories than it needs and wastes in excess of 200,000 tonnes of perfectly edible food every day. In a bitter irony, the food wasted by the developed world is enough to feed the hungry billion.

From Achim Steiner, United Nation's Under-Secretary-General last week: "In a world of seven billion people, set to grow to nine billion by 2050, wasting food makes no sense - economically, environmentally and ethically, aside from the cost implications, all the land, water, fertilisers and labour needed to grow that food is wasted - not to mention the generation of greenhouse gas emissions produced by food decomposing on landfill and the transport of food that is ultimately thrown away...

I couldn't have put it better myself.

The UN launched a new initiative this week called think, eat, save - reduce your foodprint - a global campaign to change the culture of food waste. Partners in the initiative include UK food waste campaigns like Feeding the 5000 - creators of the biannual event providing a meal for 5000 people from food that would otherwise end up in landfill, and WRAP UK, a group working towards a circular economy where people and businesses recycle more and waste less.

Feeding the 5000's new Gleaning Network is resurrecting the medieval tradition of gleaning. (Gleaning - sometimes called scrounging, used to play the role of a basic welfare system and is the gathering of crops left over in the fields after the commercial harvest - and increasingly these days - rescuing crops left to rot when they have failed to meet regulatory cosmetic criteria or were not economically viable to harvest because of over production).

Wait, back up a moment. There are currently a reported six million people living in extreme poverty in the UK alone and there is food being left to rot in the fields? Are we mad?

In developing countries there is also waste, but that's at the transport and distribution end. Without refrigeration getting produce to markets has a narrow window and if there's a problem with weather or transport the food spoils. In the industrialised countries more than 40 percent of waste happens at the retail and consumer levels. And there's a shocking difference in how we use the food that does make it to market. In Europe and the US, an average of 95-115 kg of food per person is wasted every year, compared to just 6 - 11 kg per person in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

To get some idea of the scale of this waste, 20 million acres of land are used to produce just the meat and dairy products that are WASTED in homes, shops and restaurants in the UK and the US alone.

And it's not just crops, fish we previously took for granted are now in jeopardy due to over-fishing, made worse by the insane European Quota system which means 40 - 60% of all fish caught are thrown back - dead - because they are the wrong size, the wrong species, or because they exceed the boat's quota.

And while we're on the madness: An estimated 20 - 40% of UK fruit and vegetables are rejected at source because they don't come up to the supermarkets' ridiculous cosmetic standards: the area of red on the red and green apples doesn't meet the area dictated by food regulators so it's rejected at the farm and goes to waste!

Today, about 30% of school dinners end up in landfill. When I was a child in the heart of industrialised Manchester, all the food left over from school dinners was put into barrels labelled Pig Swill and collected by the local farmer. A perfect solution - no waste and happy pigs. Banned now of course in the interests of hygiene and fear of infection.

Meanwhile, the water we use to irrigate the crops that are WASTED would be enough to supply all the daily water needs for the future's 9 billion people. That's not all the food produced - that's just the food that is wasted.

According to Tristram Stuart in his book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal if we planted trees on the land currently used to grow this wasted food it would theoretically offset 100% of green house gases from fossil fuel. Incredible.

So we are already producing enough food to feed the world. It's a question of distribution and waste of the food we do produce and at VTV we're all about asking what we can do as individuals.

The good news is, as Ben Mann, director of the Best Before documentary discusses in his interview - there's a food revolution taking place. Citizens are producing their own food, growing sustainably and finding new ways of distribution. Groups like Feeding the 5000 are using perfectly good food that would end up in landfill or be left to rot in the fields, to feed the poor.

Our VTV Xmas dinner is a case in point: a seven course meal at the Forgotten Feast run by Eco-Chef Tom Hunt and Foodcycle. All the food was saved from going to landfill or foraged from hedgerows and cooked with a small amount of sustainable fish. It was delicious and showed what is possible with commitment and a little imagination.

So what CAN we do as individuals?

We can be part of a local growing group or join a Gleaning Network and rescue food that would otherwise be wasted. But if we can't get involved directly we can still make a huge difference just by the way we shop, cook and eat our food:

We can shop locally. We can make shopping lists and only buy what we need. We can adapt what we eat to what is available. We can make use of our leftovers, whether we eat them for lunch the next day, make soup with them or start a compost. Not only does this save us money but every bit of food that doesn't end up in a landfill helps to make a difference.

We can follow the top ten tips from the UN's new Think, Eat, Save campaign for more ideas on how to reduce our foodprint and save money.

We can check out www.lovefoodhatewaste.com for recipe ideas to use up food that would go to waste.

And we can follow Feeding the 5000 and their Gleaning Network for ways to rescue and reuse food, and the foodtank, another new initiative working to educate for change.

We all need to get conscious about how we feed ourselves so we can feed the world. Better have a look in the back of that fridge€¦

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