| by Victor Cherubim
( April 8, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) To say we and our children live in a world of contrasts and opportunity is not far wrong. Paradoxically, we find ourselves surrounded by waste and plenty simultaneously. Our problem appears to be that we have more resources, the power and knowledge than we realise, but find it hard to make use of it or how to control it, beneficially and environmentally.
Concerns of food poverty and food waste are becoming key issues in contemporary elections around the world. Few will imagine that food poverty is a serious concern in the U.K., whilst simultaneously food waste is a serious concern both in the U.K. and beyond.
There are nearly one billion mal-nourished people in the world today. Yet a great deal of food is thrown away. Pressures on food prices are according to the World Bank, expected to weaken in the short term, with wage increases and cost of living controls. However, the FAO states that one third of the world’s food goes to waste.
Sorting out the food waste problem is good for society as well as for the environment.
In fact, it is all the more good for business.
A House of Lords EU Sub Committee has stated:”wasted food is morally repugnant”. With 15 million tonnes in U.K and 90 million tonnes in the EU, of food being dumped, Michele Hanson in The Guardian says “When I read about food waste, I long for the return of rationing.”
But to tackle this tragic waste of edible food is slowly but surely being forced on supermarkets by a government tax regime, rather than an “ethical” decision on their part. Among some reputed supermarkets, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s have resorted to some good practices such as willingness to donate surplus food to hospitals, homeless shelters, Old peoples’ homes and to charities such as “Fareshare, Salvation Army and Food for All.” They deserve credit for providing a model for others to follow. Another supermarket, Morrisons does not donate surplus, but cuts down on food waste before it goes out of date. The problem with most super marts is they do not provide records for minimising food waste. Observers say supermarkets for some unknown reason may have an unwillingness to reveal their waste data.
Reasons for food waste
It appears a mystery why so many of our supermarkets around the world order more than they can sell and end up having to throw it away. The reasons for food waste may
be attributed to the following:
- Overstocking, in fact deliberately, as they believe shoppers like to see full shelves. “Full shelves give the impression of infinite abundance – an illusion which remains the central core of expectations of choice in today’s consumer culture.”
- The second factor is profit margins. “Buy one, get one free” this was the slogan by supermarkets and shops sometime ago who tried to entice shoppers, to think they got value for their purchases. This marketing acronym, a sales promotion, never really took off as the cost of each item sold cost only approximately half price. As every ploy has a time span, with the tightening of home budgets, customers have become more cautious of emptying supermarket shelves and stocking their kitchen larders. Space is a premium and a cost for both.
- A third factor is damaged packaging. A minor damage on the outer package, though not affecting the food inside, is either dumped or reduced in price.
- Quality requirement often necessitate the rejection of good food. With the excuse to meet health standards, supermarkets have an over anxious tendency to impose excessively severe quality controls on its products causing perfectly edible food to be rejected or discarded even before it arrives in store. These “goods” find a way back into lower cost outlets. With price the main factor in competition, some supermarkets including Tesco, recently are having to price beat the no frills continental firms trading in UK, “Aldi and Lidl” outlets today.
Poverty cannot be overcome overnight
Some waste is of course inevitable. Fair access to resources, employment and income
is key to overcoming hunger. Amartya Sen published the groundbreaking book: “Poverty and Famine”. Another, an environmental scientist, Philip Antwi Agyei states the need for more equitable food distribution, by developing innovative multi-scale approaches for assessing vulnerability to climate change especially in form of drought.
After a watery rain soaked misery this winter, we in Britain, according to forecasters are set to sizzle in a 6 month heat wave with unusually high temperature. Likewise, in Sri Lanka, the drought in the North Central and Northern Provinces are causing serious concern to our food and energy resource. Where have both the monsoons gone? Have our rains been diverted? We need to build more tanks and reservoirs like our kings of old, as well as conserve water in our daily usage to escape the drought and for food security.