“Buy Today Eat Today”: Infrastructures of Food Waste Prevention

BY TAMMARA SOMA

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                                                                            Photo by@ Tammara Soma: Mr Ujang, the neighbourhood Tukang Sayur

Growing up in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia. I would wake up in the morning to a familiar holler from the front of my house “Yur! Yur!  Sayur Neng!!” ( Veg, Veg, Vegetables Miss). My mother would then go out to greet the Tukang Sayur (Mobile vegetable vendor) around 6:30am. This is how the conversation would often sound like:

Vendor: What are you planning to cook today?

Mother: Hmm I’m thinking spinach soup. Do you have anything good?

Vendor: This is really fresh, it’s 5000 Rupiah for this bunch;

Mother: Ok, I’ll just get two. How about this corn, is it sweet?

Vendor: Yes, how about you pair it with this tempeh. It’s a good combination

Mother: Nah, I had tempeh yesterday. I’ll just grab a small bag of the potatoes. I’m going to make perkedel kentang  (potato croquets). Can you bring me a nice cut of beef tomorrow, all cleaned and cut? I want to make semur (beef stew).

Vendor: Sure. See you tomorrow

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The food waste problem in the US – A video from Coat of Arms

The post production company Coat of arms has produced a short video highlighting the problem of food waste in the US.

Coat of Arms description:

“An undisclosed fast food restaurant chain asked us to create a pitch/sizzle video. This video was meant to get an internal conversation started to increase food waste awareness and to implement strategies for reducing such waste. All video elements were sourced from various news outlets and food waste videos. We’ve removed the client name and fast food chain name for privacy”

See http://www.coatofarmspost.com/portfolio/food-waste/ for more information

Foodwastestudies members at the Scarborough Fare: Global Foodways and Local Foods in a Transnational City conference

By Leo Sakaguchi – @jampgade

I am delighted to publish my first blog post as the new Social Media and Communications Manager for the foodwastestudies.com group and soon will publish an article on my work and the goals for the foodwastestudies group.

I wrote my first report about this years annual meeting and conference by ASFS/AFHVS/CAFS hosted at the University of Toronto at Scarborough. Several members of the foodwastestudies group came together and organized 3 sessions on food waste and 1 round table discussion on food waste research, policy and practice.

The number of researchers working on food waste at this conference  is expanding with 9 contributors from the US, Canada, UK/Australia, Indonesia and Germany. Our scholars are making a great contribution to the variety of topics at this conference and sharing it with outstanding food scholars. Usually communicating via virtual media, we are grateful for the opportunity  to meet in person!  It is great to have the foodwastestudies group as platform for academic networking and most importantly friendship.

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Foodwastestudies members at Scarborough (left to right: Christian Reynolds, Tammara Soma, Madison Maguire, Leo Sakaguchi)

The 3 panel sessions addressing food waste includes topics across multiple stakeholders and is packed into two days.  On the 23rd of June, Madison Maguire (York University) and me, Leo Sakaguchi (UC Berkeley) presented our research and Master’s theses on food waste in restaurants including obtained data on behavior both in Toronto (Madison) and the city of Berkeley (Leo), knowledge and needs of restaurants targeting the reduction of food waste. Christian Reynolds (University of South Australia) addressed the differences between socio-economical behavior on food waste in the UK and Australia and conducted a multilevel analysis on food waste. He also pointed out the different definitions of food waste and connected income with an increased amount of waste along the whole supply chain of food. The presentation were followed up by a vivid Q&A session by conference participants from multiple areas along the food supply chain, which gave a big value to the discussion atmosphere.

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Helping consumers tackle their food wastage in an age of ‘bought but not eaten’

By Jordon Lazell – @jlazell

I am now a Love Food Hate Waste champion. I attended the training course and “gained understanding of key behaviours in addressing the problem of household food waste” and I have the certificate to prove it. But yet some of the information provided and the way solutions were presented have made me think more broadly about the potential of such educational actions and the way in which some solutions were presented.

WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) the organisation behind such training, are fantastic and by writing this post I’m not questioning their ability in any capacity. In the UK we are lucky enough to have this organisation (which I believe is run by charitable means) working to tackle waste and resource problems across the supply chain of a variety of sectors. Food waste is one area that has seen considerable effort and reward, working with both industry and consumers to minimize the amount of food thrown away.

The training provided in-depth information of how ‘us’ as food consuming individuals, can best frame our behaviour across the storage, preparation and cooking of food to prevent food from being thrown away. For example activities that tested our knowledge amongst others included: Where best to keep certain fruit and vegetables, the fridge or the freezer? How long can you keep leftovers for? and How much is an appropriate portion, and how can you best work this out? Discussions of personal experiences were brought out in group activities with participants noting their surprise of how things should be kept for maximum freshness (like putting potatoes in the fridge) and dismay that they had been throwing out food that could had been eaten (like the ability to freeze meat until the used by date).

The majority of actions presented related to the fact that food is wasted in households because we buy food and then it fails to be used up. This problem was clearly explained. We are wasting ‘little bits here and there’ and must plan and use food more efficiently to make sure we do not throw anything away we have bought. We even completed an exercise that involved thinking up meals to use up leftovers over the course of a week. Throughout this however there was little mention that perhaps one of the ways we could avoid having more food than needed is to purchase less, as well as whether the retailers could be partly responsible for our purchasing behaviour that puts consumers in this position.

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Food Waste – What Do Women Have to Do with It?

by Siera Vercillo – @sieravercillo

There are gender differences in the causes and consequences of food waste. Women are largely responsible for food across the supply chain from the field to the fork by growing, processing, cooking and distributing food in diverse ways globally. Therefore, women and men have different experiences, knowledge, challenges and needs in relation to food. Efforts to mitigate food waste need to incorporate a gender analysis within the scoping, piloting, scale, monitoring and evaluation processes in order to work towards food justice for all.

1Women’s important roles processing and selling food for local markets
Photo taken by Siera Vercillo in Sierra Leone

2Women’s important roles cooking and distributing food
Photo taken by Siera Vercillo in Sierra Leone

Across the world, women are primarily responsible for food production and for feeding their families. In the global south, where 1/3 of all food is wasted at the farm gate, and in the global north where 1/3 of food is wasted at the retail and consumer levels, women’s roles on the farm, in the factory, and at home, as well as their empowerment, access to resources, and knowledge matters a lot. In sub-Saharan Africa for example, women farmers are responsible for as much as 70%  of the production, 90% of the processing and 80% of the storage of food, suggesting that interventions to reduce food loss must target, be tailored for, and engage women.

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Tackling our food waste and the technological fix

It’s fantastic to see the momentum of media interest in food waste moving from statistic filled articles and information graphics to coverage of innovative projects that seek to tackle the waste problem. In the UK, recent television programs have started to draw upon narratives of empowerment to bring together consumers and the wider public in ‘fighting’ the war on waste as set out in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recent BBC television programme. But despite this impetus and increased proposition of technological solutions, the potential for such ideas to achieve real change is debatable.

Research that has sought to understand why we throw away food has delivered one key message; that the wastage of food by individuals both inside and outside the home is a problematic phenomenon, wrapped up in the complexity of our everyday lives. The transition of food into waste is encompassed in the routines and habits of how we consume food across stages of purchasing, storage, preparation and consumption as well as how the schedules we keep to as part of our lifestyles influence what we eat, when and why (Evans, 2015). Further to this, waste is a material that is hidden and absent from thought, removed from the household and also from our consciousness. Therefore any means of tackling the wastage of food has the difficult task of interrupting, changing and establishing new procedures that go beyond reducing food waste material to prevent the wastage of food in the first place.

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The interrelationships of hunger and waste: towards more audacious solutions?

Charlie Spring, Marie Mourad and Tammara Soma discuss the recent ‘Envisioning a Future without Food Poverty and Food Waste: Societal challenges’ conference held in Paraninfo, Bilbao from the 17-18 November 2015

Conceived as a “multidisciplinary deliberation forum,” the conference called for linking the complex issues of food waste and food poverty through the lenses of rural development, agronomy, engineering, environmental sciences, human nutrition, law and governance, sociology and philosophy. More than 150 speakers and participants came from all over the world, including us: three PhD students members of the “international food loss and food waste studies” group from Canada, Great Britain and France. Without trying to be exhaustive, the following wrap-up offers our own tri-disciplinary and tri-national perspective of the conference.

Food waste and food poverty: What? Who? How?

The conference covered a wide range of topics from raising awareness on the environmental impacts of food waste to building food systems based on human rights and social justice. Keynote speakers came from the academic world as well as multinational organizations and institutions (EU and FAO) or grassroots movements and non-profits. We found their presentations did a great job in presenting the issues of food waste and food poverty with their latest developments, but not necessarily in bringing new ideas for experts on the topic. Presenters, for their part, were mostly academics and divided in two parallel sessions. 12 minutes to talk, with 3 minutes of questions and answers, can be frustrating. We found that too little time was given to in-depth discussions and questions, even less answers. While we greatly appreciated the variety of speakers and participants, welcomed by a professionally held bilingual setting (Spanish-English, with simultaneous translations), we finally questioned the limits of interdisciplinarity as well and the relevance of linking food waste with hunger and poverty.

Key themes

A recurring theme was the values and practices of food charity in the context of economic recession and austerity policy. Karlos Perez de Armino (co-author of last year’s First World Hunger Revisited) drew attention to a lack of data on the extent of hunger but painted a contextual picture of degraded welfare services, high unemployment and 20% annual growth of the food bank network. He described food charity as ‘uncritical solidarity’, with food banks receiving large funds from the very banks that caused the financial recession that sparked the current situation. The state of food aid as a response to market conditions rather than evident need is another reason to question the assumption that it is the right way to respond to the conditions that produce hunger.

Other papers focussed more specifically on the ethics and practice of surplus food redistribution: how far can this address the ‘paradox’ of food waste coexisting with high levels of food poverty?

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Innovation in Tackling Food Waste Event – An overview of the day

As part of the ESRC’s festival of social science, on the 9th of November 2015 the Innovation in Tackling Food Waste event brought together interested parties across different stakeholder groups to share, discuss and debate the timely issue of food waste and potential solutions. The event’s aims were three fold in: sharing academic research, disseminating innovative and transferable strategies to mitigate food waste and providing an opportunity for interactive discussion. The event actively encouraged audience participation throughout the day with a question and answer session following each presentation and the utilisation of the audience engagement tool ‘Slido’.

Below gives a brief overview of each speaker’s contribution and a summary of the discussion and debate. The speakers slides can be founds here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/m4c8lnqhd0d4tji/AADtX8-BNBz5-vu-B4zb55Zda?dl=0

Jordon Lazell – Coventry University

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Jordon is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Business in Society (CBiS) at Coventry University and co-founder of the International Food Loss and Food Waste Studies Group. Introducing the day, Jordon reminded the audience of the problem at hand, the need for businesses to take increasing responsibility, the need for innovation and outlined the day’s focus. Jordon also spoke on the findings of his research on food waste behaviours in university catering environments and his experience of attempting to prevent food waste via a social media tool

Professor William Young – University of Leeds

William - UoLeeds

William is Professor of Sustainability and Businesses and Co-Director of the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds. He presented findings from a 3 year co-production project with Asda to test behaviour change interventions to help their customers reduce food waste at home.

Sarah Bromley – WRAP

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Sarah is a Research Analyst at WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) specialising in consumer food waste prevention and food re-distribution. Sarah discussed several socially innovative initiatives that aim to reduce food waste as part of her work on the EU FUSIONS project.

Caitlin Shepherd and Sam Packer – This is Rubbish

Sam and Caitlin - TIR 2

Caitlin Shepherd is Co-Founder and Director of the award winning food waste campaign ‘This is Rubbish’. Caitlin spoke about the recently launched ‘stop the rot’ campaign that calls for the retail and manufacturing sector to commit to a 30% reduction in waste by 2025. Caitlin also spoke about the need for more comprehensive auditing of what exactly is bring diverted away from human consumption across the food supply chain and for retailers to take greater responsibility for the wasteful practices they encourage.

Alice Codsi – Food Surplus Entrepreneur Network

Alice - FSE

Alice Codsi is Co-Founder of the Food Surplus Entrepreneur Network which connects a European community of food surplus entrepreneurs and organisations that build solutions to tackle food waste. Alice discussed a number of different innovative initiatives that entrepreneurs have implemented to make the most of surplus food and reduce the amount thrown away.

Tessa Cook – OLIO

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OLIO is a revolutionary new app which connects neighbours with each other and local shops so that surplus food can be shared either for free or for sale but not thrown away. Tessa outlined how anyone with surplus food can take a photo, add a brief description, set the location and price (if applicable), and neighbours can see the item available, and message to arrange pick up.

Audience engagement and discussion

The Slido tool was used throughout the event with each speaker posing questions to the audience and individuals responding via their mobile and tablet devices, the real time results of these polls were then displayed. Below are the results of the audience polls:

Slido in action

Who are you most likely to listen to and trust when they talk about being greener?

  • Scientists – 50%
  • Non-governmental organisations – 38%
  • My kids – 4%
  • People I am connected to on social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Mumsnet) – 4%
  • My partner/spouse – 4%

Have you ever stopped or changed the products you purchase because you have previously wasted it?

  • Yes, I only purchase it occasionally – 63%
  • Yes, I stopped purchasing it altogether – 13%
  • Yes, I moved to a smaller pack size – 13%
  • No, never I always buy the same thing – 8%
  • Don’t know – 4%

What do you think is the most important policy change needed to facilitate the socially innovative projects aimed at reducing food waste?

  • Financial support (E.g. Grants; tax relief on donated food, buildings etc) – 44%
  • Clarification of, guidance about, or change in, legislation (e.g. Health and Safety) – 26%
  • Greater support provided from Local Authorities and Agencies (E.g. Time, buildings, Brokerage etc.) – 22%
  • Government promotion of socially innovative activities – 7%

Slido in action 2

Which of these options is the most effective way to reduce grocery supply chain food waste?

  • Government Regulation – 41%
  • Efficient supply chain ordering systems – 23%
  • Producer Empowerment – 14%
  • Transparent Reporting Processes – 14%
  • Redistribution / Reuse of supply chain surplus – 5%
  • Producing less food – 5%

Other

  • Food not being sold primarily for financial profit
  • All of the above! No one size fits all…

How could we push social entrepreneurship into food waste reduction?

  • Workshops on food waste for sector associations – 35%
  • A start up day for future social entrepreneur – 30%
  • A big conference on social entrepreneurship and food waste – 20%
  • An inspiration video of the best organisations – 15%

Smartphones can play a major role in tackling food waste

  • Somewhat agree – 62%
  • Strongly agree – 19%
  • Neither agree nor disagree – 12%
  • Somewhat disagree – 8%

In the afternoon, participants and speakers addressed four questions during breakout round table discussions which were facilitated by members of the CBiS team. This led to a number of stimulating conversations. A summary of points made across groups are given below:

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In your opinion, what are the most responsible actions businesses and individuals can take to tackle food waste?

For individuals:

  • Thinking ahead, planning, using what you have
  • Learning to cook in a more creative way
  • Acknowledging the waste problem
  • Commitment to alternative means of supply, i.e community food groups

Businesses

  • Reducing and preventing what is currently thrown away
  • More attention to procurement and understanding of where waste is generated in the supply chain
  • Avoidance of moving waste to other parts of the supply chain
  • Acknowledgement that business practices influence consumer’s behaviour
  • Removing deals and offers on fresh products
  • Improving the relationship with food through education, away from viewing food just as a product

Other points

  • Overall lack of the visibility of the waste problem

Where do you think the bottlenecks are that stop improvements in the food waste situation, and who has the power/skills to help break through these?

Bottlenecks that stop improvements

  • Lack of interest from consumers
  • Lack of value for food, food is too cheap, portions sizes too big, loss of seasonality
  • Cosmetic rules on food that create false norms of aesthetics
  • Dating of products
  • Shopping behaviours, daily and weekly habits
  • Government initiatives and policy framing
  • Business targets are currently voluntary

Who has the power to help break though these bottleneck?

  • NGOs and awareness and actions campaigns
  • Need for food waste prevention to be orchestrated from the top
  • Need for a multi-pronged approach – a multi-stakeholder agreement
  • Responsibilities of businesses to shrink choices
  • Tax incentives and initiatives to prevent food from being wasted

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What are some good examples/case studies of other companies/regions/countries that could be transferred here?

  • Planning and think ahead initiatives, education and guidance for consumers
  • Education programmes in schools
  • Community farming, co-operatives and local level food production – integrating production and consumption
  • Collaboration between supermarkets – non-competitive policy
  • Cut off that only 5% of food waste is acceptable, no more – transparent metrics, accurate recordings of what is wasted across the supply chain
  • Local level sharing, neighbourhood action
  • Smaller plates and portions, better planning and freezing of food in hospitality settings

Which issues require a greater understanding? What are the future priorities of research?

  • Greater research around food consumption and subsequent waste practices, how can norms be changed? How does food waste change between contexts?
  • Understanding the relationship between recycling and preventing food waste
  • The role of regulation in changing business and consumer practices/ behaviour
  • A measurement of food waste across the supply chain and the potential implications of a transparent common metric
  • New businesses models to replace the current competitive retail environment that generates waste
  • How best to communicate with SME’s regarding the waste prevention and management
  • How can consumers better understand the problem of food waste? Creating awareness, stabilising changes in behaviour

 

CALL FOR PAPERS: Waste In Asia International Conference, 9–11 June 2016, Leiden University (the Netherlands)

We invite proposals for papers exploring the theme of ‘Waste in Asia’ from the perspective of the humanities and social sciences, regarding both the present day and the past. Possible topics might include (but need not be limited to) waste collection and recycling, food waste and its prevention, packaging, dustbins, and other forms of material culture related to waste, garbage art, digital waste and waste-related literature. We particularly welcome papers that focus on social, political and cultural contexts influencing attitudes, practices and policies related to waste across Asia, as well as their social, political and cultural consequences.

We aim for this event to be truly cross-disciplinary and hope that the theme will attract anthropologists and sociologists, as well as historians, geographers, archaeologists and specialists in visual and performing arts, cultural studies, literature and film.

The conference will be hosted by the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) and funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). It is part of the activities undertaken within the framework of the Garbage Matters Project (www.garbagemattersproject.com).

DETAILS

  • The conference will open in the morning of Thursday 9 June and will end on Saturday 11 June.
  • The conference is open to the public, but those wishing to attend should register in advance by sending an e-mail to WiA2016@garbagemattersproject.com with ‘Registration: Waste in Asia’ in the subject line. No registration fees will be charged.
  • The organizers will cover travel expenses (economy-class airfare to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport) for participants presenting accepted papers. Meals and accommodation will be provided free ofcharge for paper presenters.
  • The language of the conference will be English.
  • Please consult the ‘Waste in Asia 2016’ section on our website for more details: http://www.garbagemattersproject.com/waste-in-asia-2016/

SUBMITTING A PAPER PROPOSAL

  • Deadline: 10th December 2015
  • Submit your abstract of 200-300 words in an e-mail (no attachments) to WiA2016@garbagematters.com.
  • The subject line should read ‘Abstract: Waste in Asia 2016’.
  • Include a brief biographical statement (max. 150 words).
  • We will let you know whether your proposal has been accepted by 10 January 2016.

AAG 2016 Call for papers – Food waste scholarship: Recent advances and perspectives from a fragmented field of study

The International Food Loss and Food Waste Studies group are organising a further session focused around food waste research at the 2016 Association of American Geographers conference, 29th March to the 2nd of April in Sanfrancisco, CA.

We welcome all contributions that touch centrally or tangentially on food waste through (but not limited to): – Consumption – Waste management – Prevention and/or reduction – Gender – Environment – Discourse – Materiality – Social justice – International development – Policy – Food systems – Other

Interested speakers should contact Isabel Urrutia at isabel.urrutiaschroeder@mail.utoronto.ca for questions or submissions. Submissions should include your AAG pin number and abstract. Please include use “AAG Food Waste” as the subject line of your email.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE EXTENTION TO THE AAG: 18th NOV

Session abstract: Food waste scholarship: Recent advances and perspectives from a fragmented field of study

As a relatively new field of study, food waste has seen engagement from a plethora of fields across multiple scales, and locations from differing perspectives. Its interaction between food studies, discard studies, and food security is one that reflects the increasing concern for the environmental impact of food waste and mitigation techniques that extend from preventative behaviour change to waste material maximization. At the same time, at the household level, studies have begun to address the the complex ways in which consumption and food waste interact with identity, care, and food safety. This session seeks to explore the study of food waste across such diverging perspectives of the local and global, farm to household, quantitative and qualitative, sociological to managerial, agentive and structural, prevention and reduction, etc.

Organised by the International Food Loss and Food Waste Study Group, this session will: 1) Provide a forum for food waste scholars to share their work, and 2) Create a space to begin a conversation between these varying perspectives on food waste.