Battling food waste, and fussy shoppers
In just one recent week, Hastings charity Nourished for Nil handed out about 1.4 tonnes of free food, grown or baked and gone to waste.
Over the past two months it has collected 18 tonnes of food - that’s about the same weight as 18 family sedans.
What’s staggering, is that the surplus food came from only a couple of vegetable produce suppliers, a single Countdown supermarket, and more than a dozen local cafes and bakeries.
Nourished for Nil co-founder Christina McBeth said it is horrifying how much food waste must occur throughout the country if this is what can be found in her patch.
‘‘I try not to think about it. I really do, especially because I sometimes hear other people saying ... ‘oh I work in a bakery and we throw everything out’, I don’t want to hear that is going on on a grand scale.’’
Nourished for Nil was launched six months ago as a way to get waste food back into the community. Donors like Countdown and True Earth Organics hand the extra food to the charity group, which dishes it out free to anyone who wants it. That can be about 800 people a week now.
McBeth says the Countdown, cafes and bakeries give about 70kg of bread, baking, rolls, hot food a day, rising to 100kg ‘‘on some crazy Fridays’’.
Fussy shoppers can be to blame for much of the unwanted food.
‘‘We’ll get things like baked goods, even when they have been reduced, where the packet is a bit crushed on one side or the muffins are a bit crumbly. Nothing wrong with the food, but the packaging is not what the consumer wants.’’
She says True Earth
Organics and other produce growers have vegetables or fruit that are too big or too small that shoppers don’t want.
In the case of True Earth, it decided to donate to Nourished for Nil rather than turn the vegetables back into the soil or use as animal feed.
McBeth says zero waste is probably unrealistic and she understands that supermarkets have to cater to uncertain demand. Some weeks they sell lots of something and the next they don’t.
‘‘So there will always be waste and there will always be a need for what we are doing to try and at least minimise it.’’
Shoppers could help by being less fussy. But ultimately most food waste occurs in the home. Studies suggest that for every five bags of food purchased, one is going in to the bin. Much of that is scraps, but bread is number one food wasted, followed by potatoes.