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KAREN CANNARD: Wonky, yes – but it still tastes great

A personal view
A personal view

Well, January delivered some interesting food waste news. If you managed to catch Channel 4’s Friday Night Feast, with Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty, you would have witnessed some promising food waste rescues that could inspire national change, particularly within supply chains and the hospitality sector.

First up was the wonky veg situation, featuring misshapen carrots and parsnips that are normally rejected by supermarkets. This led the foodie duo to convince Asda to trial a range of misshapen produce in five stores around the UK. If sales are successful, we may see this rolled out nationwide. Next were pullet eggs, produced by young chickens when they first start laying. These are much smaller than the ‘average’ egg, so are often wasted. However, discussions with restaurateurs demonstrated real opportunities to bring them on to the menu.

In a more recent episode, Friday Night Feast also highlighted the Real Junk Food Project. Real Junk Food affiliated cafés are springing up around the UK, rescuing produce that is past its Best Before Date from the supply chain. The social enterprise model helps reduce food waste and makes good food more affordable to local people. The ingredients are always safe to eat and they turn their haul into a veritable feast for customers, supporters and volunteers with menu choices that are offered on a Pay-As-You-Feel basis.

And finally in last week’s episode, the spotlight was on good old fashioned gleaning, which has made a modern comeback thanks to the work of food waste researcher and activist Tristram Stuart. An interview with a farmer highlighted that despite best efforts to harvest and sell on all that they can, the farming sector can find itself in situations where mechanical processes leave behind crops that are uneconomical to harvest manually. Also, many have a surplus that can’t be sold.

The Gleaning Network UK offers volunteer support to farmers, harvesting their surplus to pass on to the UK’s food redistribution service FareShare. FareShare, in turn, distributes its harvest of fruit and vegetables to charities, including breakfast clubs, women’s refuges and luncheon clubs for older people. Over 82,100 people benefit from FareShare food every day and in the last year the food redistributed from producers, manufacturers and retailers, by the charity, contributed towards more than 13.2 million meals.

The beneficial outcome of all of these projects is that they provide solutions for food that might otherwise have been wasted and offer opportunities for businesses, social enterprises or charities to help local communities.

At a local level, I caught up with Maria Broadbent from Casa Del Mar in Bury St Edmunds, who last year gave a joint presentation with me at a national waste conference. We discussed her own plans for a Social Café project.

‘The project would tackle numerous issues facing society in 21st century Britain,” she began. “These are not just big inner city challenges. Sadly, for a variety of reasons, affordable nutritious food is currently unattainable for people all over the country.

“The initial venue would be in Bury St Edmunds, and may even run as a pop up to vary the location and make it accessible to many. The focus would be to tackle the appalling disposal of completely edible food. This can be achieved particularly well by combining a variety of project outcomes and processes:

- Getting food that is close to best before and using it to produce healthy tasty dishes.

- Teaching people not only to cook but sharing knowledge on food storage and nutrition.

- Training people with basic food & hospitality sector skills.

- Providing a venue where people on low income can get a meal at a very fair price.”

So as January closes, I feel a sense of optimism for 2015. I now look forward to seeing what other opportunities unfold. If this area interests you, please do get in touch. Maria can also be contacted about her project plans at maria@casadelmar.co.uk

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