By Alissa Hamilton (Author of Squeezed and Got Milked?) – Writer in Residence, Food Systems Lab
Every so often we hear news of the latest updates to the Oxford English Dictionary. Mostly they include additions. “Binge-watch” and “vape” are a couple of new activities that have become so popular that the OED editors have deemed them deserving of word recognition. But on one late summer walk, Canadian born Wayne Roberts and Indonesian born Tammara Soma put their birth-languages together to arrive at what they believe should be a deletion: “waste” as a noun, and therefore “food waste” as a term. Over tea a few days later, Tammara explained to me that while Indonesians talk of wasting food, food waste isn’t a thing in Indonesian. That’s the way it should be in English too.
In “Waste-Soma,” Wayne’s newsletter entry about his walk with Tammara, Wayne—who, as the former and longtime chair of Toronto’s Food Policy Council, is the man largely responsible for putting food on Toronto City Council’s agenda—outlines the global problem that he and Tammara met to discuss: the massive amounts of food that humans waste each day, week and year. The crux of the problem is easy to illustrate: every apple we don’t eat is all the wasted energy used to grow, harvest, package and ship it, plus all the global warming gases emitted as the apple rots in landfills. The solution isn’t so easy to picture. Composting plays a familiar, if limited role. It mitigates the problem, but only marginally because it doesn’t make up for all the energy it took to get the apple to you in the first place. Recognizing that preventing so many truckloads of food from being wasted demands a diverse set of interventions, innovations, and perspectives from stakeholders ranging from indigenous communities to for-profit businesses, Tammara has launched the Food Systems lab. Wayne is so enthused by Tammara’s vision to take a comprehensive approach toward identifying ways to reduce the amount of food we as a society waste that he has agreed to become a Special Advisor to the lab. First off the waste-busters want to put an end to food waste literally. As Wayne writes, “’food waste’ has to be renamed ‘wasted food,’ because waste is a verb, not a noun.”