Waste not want not:

Food waste is a cul­tural, en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic prob­lem of stag­ger­ing pro­por­tion, but there is hope. LINDY ALEXAN­DER talks to those com­ing to the res­cue with ways to help curb this global is­sue

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

How top chefs and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are try­ing to curb the is­sue of food waste.

Imag­ine this: you are at the su­per­mar­ket do­ing your weekly shop. You se­lect ripe toma­toes, fra­grant peaches, glossy egg­plants, pasta, milk, flour and all the sta­ples you need. At the check­out, the cashier places your gro­ceries into sev­eral bags. On your way out, you toss one bag into a rub­bish bin. You re­peat the same thing ev­ery week.

It’s a baf­fling, care­less and dis­turb­ing pic­ture. Yet a third of all food pro­duced glob­ally is wasted. Ac­cord­ing to the UN, if food waste was a coun­try, it would be the third-high­est green­house gas emit­ter af­ter China and the United States. Be­tween the do­mes­tic and com­mer­cial world,Aus­tralians alone squan­der $10 bil­lion worth of edi­ble food each year. The av­er­age fam­ily frit­ters away over $1000 worth of food an­nu­ally.

“Think of it as each house­hold throw­ing away one out of ev­ery four bags of gro­ceries, and busi­nesses throw­ing away one in ev­ery four to five,” says sus­tain­able food re­searcher Dianne McGrath.

At Mel­bourne’s RMIT, McGrath has in­ves­ti­gated the amount of food wasted by the Aus­tralian hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor. Her re­search sug­gests that one in four Aus­tralians leave food on their plate when they dine out.

“They may be leav­ing nearly 20 per cent of their meal,” says McGrath.

“The way that many cafes and res­tau­rants cur­rently present, of­fer and de­liver menu op­tions may be a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to this.”

Smaller or more var­ied por­tion sizes, hav­ing sides as op­tional ex­tras, and re­mov­ing gar­nishes are all ways to help curb food waste.

“Th­ese ap­proaches will have an im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment by re­duc­ing green­house gases as well as the nat­u­ral re­sources lost,” she says.

Re­cy­clable “dog­gie bags” would no doubt help, too. How­ever, in Aus­tralian eater­ies, th­ese can be hard to come by.

For Ronni Kahn, founder of food res­cue char­ity OzHar­vest, the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of food waste can­not be over­stated.

“Only a small pro­por­tion of food from pro­duc­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ers, grow­ers, re­tail­ers, ho­tels, delis and su­per­mar­kets is be­ing rescued,” she says. “A lot still goes to land­fill and that’s the big­gest chal­lenge.”

Kahn started OzHar­vest 12 years ago in re­sponse to sur­plus food in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. The char­ity col­lects qual­ity ex­cess food from over 2000 com­mer­cial out­lets and de­liv­ers it to more than 900 char­i­ties. “We’ve saved over 20 mil­lion kilo­grams of good food from go­ing to land­fill and we’ve de­liv­ered the equiv­a­lent of al­most 60 mil­lion meals to vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.”

But there’s still much to be done. “We need to un­der­stand that ev­ery time we throw away a ba­nana with a blem­ish, or dis­card milk past its use-by date with­out sniff­ing or tast­ing it, it’s cost­ing us fuel, wa­ter, labour, en­ergy,” Kahn says. “But there’s a whole range of dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions peo­ple are com­ing up with.”

One US en­tre­pre­neur makes gra­nola with pulp col­lected from juice bars, while an­other up­cy­cles grain left over from beer pro­duc­tion into snack bars. There are also nu­mer­ous food waste apps, in­clud­ing ones to help you plan meals, gen­er­ate shop­ping lists, and even en­cour­age neigh­bour­hood food shar­ing.

Tech­nol­ogy is cru­cial to solv­ing this is­sue says zero-waste ad­vo­cate Joost Bakker. “There’s a grow­ing cul­ture of farm­ers us­ing mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to sell their food di­rect,” he says.

Face­book, In­sta­gram and Twit­ter en­able con­sumers to con­nect with farm­ers and pro­duc­ers on so­cial me­dia.

“I get my milk from a guy who has 13 cows,” says Bakker. “That’s the fu­ture. If peo­ple know where their food comes from, they are less likely to waste it.”

Com­post­ing food scraps and reusing them to fer­tilise soil helps to re­duce the amount of meth­ane-re­leas­ing land­fill. At his ground­break­ing Mel­bourne cafe, Brothl, which closed in 2015, Bakker didn’t have a rub­bish bin on site. What­ever waste they gen­er­ated went into a com­post ma­chine and then to his farm. “It’s in­spired a lot of peo­ple around the world, like Silo in the UK and Dan Bar­ber in New York,” he says.

“We need to re­alise that food is a fi­nite re­source,” Alas­tair McLeod, owner and chef at Al’FreshCo Cater­ing in Queens­land, says.

McLeod sees po­ten­tial din­ners where oth­ers see spoiled veg­eta­bles. “Soups and cur­ries are a great op­tion for us­ing veg­eta­bles that are past their best,” he says. “Add spices and fresh herbs to pump up the flavour.”

At-home so­lu­tions in­clude sticking to a shop­ping list, min­imis­ing por­tions, and get­ting creative with left­overs.

“I had some leftover pump­kin,so last night I made a pump­kin frit­tata,” says McLeod. “I threw in all my odds and sods of cheese,some egg,chilli and creme fraiche and it was a lovely dish.” OzHar­vest’s an­nual CEO CookOff takes place to­mor­row in Syd­ney. It brings to­gether chefs, CEOS and lead­ing com­pa­nies to raise funds and feed peo­ple in need. ceo­cookoff.com.au For more ideas on creative ways with left­overs, see de­li­cious.com.au

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