Redistributing food Surplus!

Researchers for WRAP estimate that the UK currently produces 1.9 million tonnes of waste each year from the grocery supply chain[1].  Of this, about 56% (1.1. million tonnes) can be considered avoidable food waste.  mostly because it is surpus and not yet waste.  Wrap argues that after changing processes to reduce the amount of food becoming surplus, redistribution of surplus food to people is the most desirable option for food waste prevention.  They estimate that about 18% is currently redistributed, with food from the retail sector accounting for about five percent of the total volume of redistributed food and the remainder coming from manufacturing. The WRAP report also considers that at least half of all the surplus could be considered ‘readily redistributable’,  while the rest is more challenging because of its shorter life or need for repackaging.  The aim is to increase the volume of surplus food that is redistributed by about four times the current amount (from 47,000 tonnes to 185,000 tonnes); to an equivalent of approximately 360 million meals per year by 2025.  Achieving this goal will involve a doubling of the amount of food that is redistributed from retail to consumers. One of the recommendations of the report is the development of improved guidance and partnership tools that would facilitate food redistribution. Continue reading

Why a slow cooker is a good idea

 

Your oven is probably the most energy inefficient appliances in your house.  Running an oven 20 minutes uses about the same amount of energy as running a slow cooker for 8 hours.  If you think about this in cost terms, one hour of cooking in an oven is three times more expensive compared to 8 hours of cooking in a slow cooker (see this article in the Telegraph for an explanation).  This makes a slow cooker not only a more energy efficient way to cook dinner but it also makes is a great appliance if you are trying to save money. If you break it down, the cost of cooking in an oven for an hour is about £0.30 compared to just over £0.10 in the slow cooker.  Maybe the difference doesn’t seem like much. For many, it won’t matter, but for some, it is a big deal.

I do some work with a couple of organisations who distribute emergency food to those who are facing hardship.  At a recent meeting, we were discussing the needs of some of these people who are managing on very, very tight budgets.  The oven is the last appliance that they want to use when cooking food as people who are struggling to find money for food.  In my discussions with emergency food providers in two locations, I was told that there are those coming to the food banks who are struggling on both the food and household fuel fronts.

Some of those who are going to the food bank are also those who get electrical supply via a pre-payment meter (yes, in the UK this is possible). The way these work is that you purchase a card and then insert it into the meter. When you run out of money on the pre-payment card, your electricity turns off.  While the cost per unit of electricity used tends to be more expensive than for a service that is continuous and for which you get a bill every month or so, it does allow those on the pre-payment system to limit their electricity use before the bill gets out of hand. Importantly not all household energy use is viewed as equally important, such that there is a suggestion that people will choose to forgo heat in favour of other household expenditures on things such as food, which has given rise to what is known as the heat or eat dilemma (though there is little systematic research that fully explores this situation or the extent to which the heat or eat strategy is being used).  It is also unclear just how many in the UK are affected by the lack of fuel and food, but there must certainly be a sufficient number as several food banks are now also providing fuel certificates that enable those on pre-pay meters to keep them going.

While we need to put pressure on our government to consider how our current social support system is designed such that those who are the poorest are increasingly finding themselves unable to meet their basic needs (and this includes those who are in work poor), there is some small support we as citizens can offer.  Slow cookers are not just inexpensive to run, but they are also inexpensive to buy.  As part of your holiday giving this year why not donate a slow cooker to a charity that supports those who are struggling to eat.

Feeding Affordances & Decent Helpings: Infographic from the research

Recent research that I have been conducting reveals that local authorities and the 3rd sector need to find ways to work together if we are going to tackle food poverty. Neither can go it alone and effectively support communities.

Food Security and Food Justice

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Click to get a downloadable pdf copy of the infographic v2-2-infographic-feeding-affordances-and-decent-helpings-1

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Mapping residuals can help identify communities that are resilient: Feeding Affordance and Decent Helpings

IMD as a predictor of children’s overweight status in Doncaster communities where there were more than 75 children measured.

Data for this analysis was provided in anonymised form from Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council Public Health, who was the collaborator on this research application.

The aim of this research is twofold. Firstly to consider the predictors of rates of children who are overweight and obese at community level and to determine if there are contextual factors that contribute to these rates.  Secondly, the research aimed to identify communities that were performing better than would be expected so that a qualitative case study could be undertaken to try to see what might be supporting their resilience.

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Food Matters and Neoliberalism: Talk Transcript for Food Matters Symposium

I recently participated in symposium that was considering waste in relation to food.  It was put on as a pre-conference event to the 2015 RGS/IBG meetings held in Exeter. The symposium, which took place on a working farm, was both fascinating and very engaging. You can find out more about the event and its participants on the web site developed by the organisers here.  I encourage you to have a look at the link as you will learn about West Town Farm and the activities of the day. My role at the symposium was to give a short talk around the issue of food waste and neoliberalism.  I chose to use an excellent food re-use project–The Real Junk Food Project–as a mechanism for focusing my questions. I am offering the text of my provocation in what follows.   Continue reading

The 2015 general election and its implications for food insecurity in the UK.

On Friday, 8 May 2015 I awoke to discover that not only were we not looking forward to a new coalition government in the UK, but that the overall collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party has given the Conservative government a mandate in UK politics. While I, at an individual level, am likely to see some benefits from the strong neoliberalism that underpins this government’s ideology, I am concerned by the implications of this for the country more generally and particularly the nation’s poor. Indeed, I see a further deepening of the division between those who have and those who have not. As I will elaborate, this will mean the continued exponential growth in the numbers of people requiring emergency food assistance and increased numbers of children and elderly with inadequate food supply, which will also translate into higher rates of obesity, diet rated illness and malnutrition. These trends as they are situated within the current climate of neoliberal austerity will also mean that we, if we are to continue as a nation with social values (as opposed to only economic values) must find ways of filling the gap, not just for families but also for our communities. Continue reading