My 7th challenge on My Year of Eco Challenges is to do something to help tackle the issues of food waste and food poverty in my local area by encouraging people to share food!
According to Love Food Hate Waste ‘almost 50% of the total amount of food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes…Wasting this food costs the average household £470 a year, rising to £700 for a family with children, the equivalent of around £60 a month’ They also say that ‘if we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the benefit to the planet would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road’. This is because most food waste ends up in landfill where it rots and gives off methane.
On the other end of the spectrum, in April 2013 the Trussell Trust said there had been ‘170% rise in numbers turning to food banks in last 12 months… Almost 350,000 people have received at least three days emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks during the last 12 months, nearly 100,000 more than anticipated and close to triple the number helped in 2011-12.’
On the one hand some families are wasting food left, right and centre and on the other hand a growing number of families are suffering from food poverty. I could be chucking food away down the street from someone who hasn’t had a proper meal that day. That doesn’t make any sense to me!!!
I could spend time (which I have) trying to reduce my food waste as far as possible. I could also donate money to FareShare or the Trussell Trust to help support food banks around the country. There doesn’t seem an easy way that I can regularly donate my unwanted food to a food bank though and wouldn’t it be great if:
- there was an easy way people in my local area could give away food that they don’t want or need to other people in my local area (e.g. because they have gone off it and know they won’t eat it before it’s use by date or because they bought too much food, or they are going away and can’t eat it all in time…)
- there were fruit trees and nut trees growing in the streets and parks near where I live whose fruit would be freely available to all
- groups of neighbours and friends routinely got together to bulk buy foods, which can be local, cheaper and come with less packaging.
- there was no-one going hungry in my local area at all.
There is a very simple and easy solution to most of this – set up a food sharing group on Facebook!
Once I had the idea in my head I couldn’t wait until today to start and straight away set up a food sharing Facebook group for my local area (see it here) where people can give away food, set up bulk buying clubs, set up batch cooking clubs and post about any other food sharing ideas they may have. It is such a simple idea, I don’t know why I haven’t done it earlier.
It’s working already:
- I posted some noodles and some cereals on there that I didn’t need or want and they quickly got snapped up by some friends in the group. When I gave the noodles to my friend, she gave me some fruit that she couldn’t use, which was a pleasant surprise!
- I asked if anyone wanted to join me in buying eggs from a local farm that specialises in organic free range eggs (see their website here). They sell trays of 30 eggs for £3.50! If I bought 30 organic eggs in the shops it would probably cost me around £10. I had lots of responses and fairly quickly a group of six of us formed. We are planning to take it in turns to do pick ups and will probably only need to buy eggs once a month. There is going to minimal effort involved, we all save money and we support a local organic free range farm – hooray!
My next steps:
- I plan to publicise the group to gain more members. Ideas include putting leaflets in public places around my local area, writing an article for the local newsletter, maybe doing a talk about the group at my local library (if they will let me) and advertising it online…
- My hope is that the Facebook group will grow and once it has, I might be able to use it to gather support for starting up community tree planting projects and to get some local people involved.
- In Brighton we are lucky and have the Brighton Permaculture Trust (see their website here) who are already working to plant orchards around the city and I contacted them to find out if they can provide any help with my tree planting ideas. They did get back to me briefly to say now is not the right time of year to plant fruit trees – fruit trees need to be planted in the winter, but they will get back in touch with me in the next few weeks and hopefully I will get more of an idea about how practical my ideas are.
Will you join me?
You could set up a food sharing Facebook group for your local area or community, or just for your friends. It could be as big or small as you like and you set the rules. Small local solutions are the way forward for tackling food waste and food poverty and you might be surprised at how good it feels to share food that might have otherwise gone to waste!