BBC 1’s Hugh’s War on Waste series is likely to create the biggest noise about food waste in as long as I can remember – and about time too. Working behind the scenes as an advisor to the series in Prestwich reminded me about the difference we can make as individuals. Please join the Home Front of the War on Waste and take our Food Challenge to make a difference, trying to halve your food waste over the next three weeks.
It’s time that our food chains took responsibility for ensuring that no surplus food goes to waste and that perfectly good fruit and veg isn’t wasted because it doesn’t meet cosmetic standards. But more than half of the food wasted comes from our homes, that’s 7 million tonnes a year. 1 in 5 bags of food we buy ends up in the bin. 24 million slices of bread are thrown away a day.
I could go on, but I can’t even imagine what 24 million slices looks like. However, I can remember clearly how much food I used to throw away.
I grew up with ‘waste not want not’ values in the 1970s and was then a cash-strapped student in the 1980s. I find it it hard to believe that as a mother raising my own family in this new millennium how I got into the habit of wasting so much food. It was in 2007 that I was nudged into taking action to reduce it.
It was an advert in a glossy magazine that first caught my attention, highlighting the shocking amount of food that was thrown out from our homes and that wasted food cost the average family more than £50 a month. I realised that we were that average family, regularly throwing away out-of-date yoghurts and ready-meals still in their packaging, lots of mouldy bread and half-eaten packets of ham. Uneaten fruit and veg would also end up in our compost bin and I still remember the sorrowful day that I threw a whole chicken into my rubbish bin simply because a change in plan meant it went past its use-by date. It wasn’t as though we were rich. I simply wasn’t paying attention.
That was life at home in 2007.
In 2008, our council ran a Zero Waste challenge and as well as recycling better I started paying proper attention to our food waste, watching how quickly it filled our bin whilst trying to tackle the cause. Was it because I was buying too much? Cooking too much? Serving too much? Storing food incorrectly? Yes, all of those plus the many more reasons that were uncovered when I started talking to the family, namely my husband and the children, two boys boys then aged 3 and 6. Since then, we have made a massive dent in our food waste and over the last eight years, we’ve saved at least £500 a year. I estimate that we have saved well over £4000.
Change begins with awareness and a conversation. Hugh’s programme is the big nudge that will take awareness to the next level, creating conversations about what needs to be done. In it you’ll meet some of the fabulous residents of Prestwich who are an inspiration, like Jo, who was amazing and managed to cut her food waste drastically over just a matter of weeks. There were also some great recycling heroes such as Kelly. I really hope we get to see Michelle’s bin too. And behind the scenes, Gilly did some amazing work in getting her friends and neighbours involved, meeting others in her community for the very first time, sharing ideas on how to reduce their waste.
Please join the Home Front of the War on Waste and take our Food Challenge to make a difference, trying to halve your food waste over the next three weeks. Please share it with your family, your friends and your colleagues too. The more people on board, the faster the change and the bigger the impact.
The Challenge asks you to spend just three weeks looking a bit more closely at what you buy, how you store and cook. It’s got the best tips, waste workouts and food facts to help you make the most of your food. It’s fun and it works. Find out more here.
The issue of food waste is too urgent to ignore. I wish I hadn’t waited until 2008. Now in 2015, The Food Challenge is your chance to make that change too.
And thank you,