How Did Fighting Food Waste Become Free PR & Labour for Supermarkets?

How Did Fighting Food Waste Become Free PR & Labour for Supermarkets?

Food waste is a scandal – in more ways than one. We have somehow allowed a food system to develop that lets supermarkets off the hook, when it is their policies and practices that generate food waste in the first place.

In September 2015, Ireland’s then Minister for Social Protection and deputy government leader told journalists she was “very pleased to be here” as she opened a warehouse-sized Food Bank in Dublin, which would take surplus food from supermarkets like Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl and re-distribute it to charities. It expected to move 750 tonnes of food in its first year.

The large Dublin facility was part of a series of openings of food distribution centres and community food banks across the country that were heralded as “a socially responsible, environmentally sensitive, business-friendly alternative to wasting good food”.

Understandably most people are appalled to learn that approximately one-third of the food produced in the world, or 1.3 billion tons per year, is wasted while there are people going hungry. Luckily there are some people who are appalled enough to do something about it. There is a myriad of projects, schemes, social enterprises and clever ideas all over the world which are tackling food waste in big ways and small.

Here in Ireland and in the UK, we have seen the emergence of food banks and the design of tech solutions which allow surplus food from supermarkets, and food manufacturers, to be re-distributed to charities. In France they have actually made it illegal for supermarkets to throw away safe food, instead it must be donated to charity.

These types of schemes have been roundly welcomed – food that was previously going to landfill, which is indeed unthinkable, is being used to feed those who need it most. On the face of it, two problems have been brought together to solve both.

The reality though is that they provide a tip of iceberg ‘fix’ to two complex entrenched problems while solving neither.

Read the article in full via Arc2020.


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