Archive for May 18th, 2012
A couple of days ago I blogged about the Community Soup Bowl, in Tuscaloosa, and a few days before that I covered the ‘Stamp Out Hunger’ Food Drive. I quoted the latter’s statistics, which say that 1 in 6 Americans live below the poverty line and are facing hunger today (including more than 16 million children). Figures from the Trussell Trust – the UK’s largest food bank network – show a similar ratio here.
This set me thinking about food banks, and the pressing need to find ways of getting surplus food to those who really need it. No doubt you, like me, are aware of programmes locally to where you live that aim to do exactly this. In Swansea, a large city just a few miles from here, a church-run food bank opened a year ago, and it has already served around 900 people, from all parts of society… young people, elderly people, families and pregnant mothers. Food is donated by supermarkets, other churches and individuals. A few miles in the other direction is the Bridgend Food Bank, operated by the aforementioned Trussell Trust. Now in its third year, it receives a lot of its supplies via the local Sainsbury’s supermarket, which has a donation area in its foyer for shoppers to deposit items. Over the last year around two new food banks a week have opened, around the UK, and the Bridgend one is among a total of just over 200 currently run by the Trust, which distributes over 1200 tonnes of food each year and reckons that by 2016 approximately a half-million people will be receiving food parcels.
In Cornwall a new food bank has recently opened in the town of Saltash – supported by the hardware company Screwfix – as reported earlier this week by the Cornish Guardian, in the wake of neighbouring towns’ (Callington, Liskeard and Looe) foodbanks being overwhelmed by demand.
In London one charity that has been operating for the last 25 years in this field is PlanZheroes, which takes waste food from industry and ensures that it gets to the needy: for example, it recycles left-over sandwiches from the Pret A Manger chain.
According to WRAP (the UK Government’s waste adviser) each year in Britain we waste between 14 and 18 million tonnes of food, in total, with around half of this occurring in the home (where about a quarter of all food purchased is eventually wasted). Industry (both here and in other parts of the world) is trying to address this – in the USA, for example, there’s New York’s City Harvest, while Italy has its innovative Last Minute Market; but as individuals we also need to be more waste-conscious. It’s quite mindblowing to realise that if just a quarter of all the food wasted in the UK, the USA and Europe was available to the almost one billion hungry people in the world they could all be saved from malnourishment! And when one considers that much of this wasted food is perfectly healthy and nutritious, it’s even more shocking.
This is why food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart is on a mission to persuade us to be less fussy about the food we eat. He has written a book on the subject – Waste – and last year he fed 5,000 people in Trafalgar Square, using ingredients that would otherwise have gone to landfill. For the same reasons, chef Tom Hunt has opened a restaurant in Bristol (my birthplace) that works together with the charity A Taste of Freedom to utilise food such as ripe fruit or imperfectly shaped vegetables that would otherwise be destined for landfill.
As we become ever more conscious of the limitations of our shrinking world our approach to food is starting to change – and not a moment too soon.
One final thought, though: as an almost lifelong vegetarian, I feel obliged to point out that one way of easing the world’s food supply problem (and perhaps addressing some other issues at the same time) would be for everyone to switch to a vegetarian diet. After all, meat production is an extremely wasteful process. But perhaps that’s a little too radical an idea for this blog?! I’d be interested to know, however, just how many of my readers would be sympathetic to this idea…
Is vegetarianism the answer to world hunger?