In the Gospels we read famous accounts of Jesus feeding great crowds of people, his miraculous hospitality extending to thousands of hungry listeners. “They all ate and were satisfied,” writes Luke, before adding a little note to say that the disciples gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers.
The food waste campaign Feedback reference this story on a regular basis. They hold feasts where they gather food that is about to be wasted, and cook for 5,000 people. Their Feeding the 5,000 events have taken place over 50 times in various parts of the world. It’s an awareness raising exercise an act of generosity, and an act of prophetic imagination that points towards a world without food waste.
Food waste remains a colossal global problem. Even as millions of people go hungry, 40% of the world’s food is wasted every year. Different parts of the world have different problems here. In developing countries it is technically ‘food loss’, with crops lost to poor storage or transport. In richer parts of the world it is more likely to be ‘food waste’ – perfectly good food that is thrown out by producers, retailers, or households because it wasn’t needed.
Addressing both aspects of this waste would have huge benefits. It would save people money at a time of rising costs. It would reduce waste to landfill or incineration. We could feed more people on the same amount of land, reducing pressure to cut down trees and clear land for agriculture. There are carbon savings too, from the emissions from the waste itself, to the wasted emissions in growing and processing food that wasn’t used. It is no small matter to fix the moral scandal implicit in food waste either – the vast amounts of food thrown away in some parts of the world while others go hungry.
Feedback are currently highlighting a practical step that we could be taking as a nation. Unlike in France, where it is illegal for companies to throw away edible food, the British government has so far relied on voluntary measures. Predictably, progress has been slow. One way to add pressure would be to have figures from companies about how much they waste. This would provide transparency, give us more ways to measure progress, and it would arm campaigners with information to keep companies accountable.
This is currently on the table. The government has proposed a legal requirement for companies to publish their numbers on food waste. The legislation would be a world first, if the government follows through on its intentions.
Feedback are asking their supporters to email the government to press them for this new law. A little public pressure would show that we want this, and encourage them not to water it down in the face of inevitable resistance from the industry. You can add your details to the form here to take part, and play a small part in addressing the huge problem of food waste.