World Food Day: Five fascinating projects to feed the plenty with surplus food

To mark World Food Day on Sunday (16 October), edie rounds up some of the latest green innovations and campaigns aimed at reducing the mountains of food waste that continue to cast a dark shadow on global food systems.

Poor farming practices, unprecedented levels of gluttony across certain areas of the globe and – until recently – a rather strange obsession with the aesthetics of fruit and veg have together delivered a perfect storm that needs combatting fast.

The Sustainable Development Goals have already recognised this, and have tasked the planet with reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. It’s a lofty ambition, but one that could prove crucial in delivering wholesale emission reductions, with the World Resource Institute (WRI) recently stating that, if food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest emitter on the planet, behind the US and China.

While the US and China are taking their own steps to improve emissions, the weight of reducing food waste falls on the shoulders of businesses and governments from all nations. But, costing an estimated $940bn annually, it’s quite a weight to bear.

That’s not to say that steps aren’t being taken to reduce the amount of wasted food and funnel the increased volume to more than 800 million people who are currently undernourished across the globe. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), WRAP, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Consumer Goods Forum all banded together to launch The Food Loss and Waste (FLW) standard earlier this year and in France, supermarkets are faced with fines reaching €75,000 if they throw away unsold food.

Even in the UK, WRAP’s flagship Courtauld Commitment sees UK supermarkets and food and drink firms pledge to reduce waste by a fifth by 2025, in an effort to recoup the estimated £20bn that is lost on food waste each year. And just this week, the Food and Drink Federation unveiled an ambitious new plan to reduce food waste, protect natural capital, and contribute to the delivery of a sustainable food system for the future.

As with most global movements, it is ultimately down to the private sector to take the initiative and grasp food waste by its slowly-rotting meatballs. With this in mind, edie brings you this round-up of some of the recent innovations attempting to turn the food waste mountain into a self-feeding gold mine.

Eating emojis

We start the round-up with the most recent announcement. Unilever has hit the headlines this week for being locked in a battle over wholesale prices with Britian’s largest superkarket, Tesco. 

When talking sustainability, Unilever is a company that often crops up as a leader. This week, one of the company’s leading brands, Knorr, is aiming to raise awareness about the fact that one in four people around the world do not receive the right vitamins and minerals, through the ‘Share A Meal’ campaign.

Knorr – one of Unilever’s sustainable living brands – will call on people to post a meal emoji on Twitter, which will then allow them to donate a meal to a nearby food bank. People can then donate to the Global Food Banking Network (GFN).

Once the campaign is complete, The Global Food Banking Network will use these funds to support a network which consists of 792 local food banks across more than 30 countries globally.

Appetite for apps

On the subject of Twitter and Social media, it seems relevant to highlight the number of smartphone apps tailored to delivering a sustainable future. Solutions involving energy management, recycling and even carbon tracking have all been introduced recently, but a personal favourite at edie is the Too Good To Go app.

Too Good To Go is a social enterprise dedicated to reducing food waste, allowing people with the app to get heavily discounted meals made from leftover restaurant food that would otherwise be thrown away.

The app opened in Denmark in late 2015 and is now available throughout the UK, with restaurants in London, Brighton and Leeds providing meals through the service. Too Good claims to have around 95 restaurants signed up to the app in London alone.

Community Fridges

An ex-public toilet block in Somerset has recently been transformed into a community fridge, which encourages people to store food that would otherwise go to waste for other people to take. Based on an initiative in Spain, Frome’s community Fridge has been running since April this year between 8am to 8pm with a five-star hygiene rating.

A group of volunteers actively monitor and clean the fridge which costs less than £10 a week to run. More than 1,000 food items were donated in June, the biggest of which arrived from a local Greggs branch.

Marks & Spencer is also active in the area through the Neighbourly surplus donation initiative, but retailers such as Asda and Iceland are also in talks to encourage local branches to donate to the project.

Portable coffee shops

One of the less obvious causes of food waste is the lack of availability in some areas, and while this next innovation is unlikely to feed rural communities it does provide retailers a way to quite literally pedal their products to people in nearby streets and areas.

Wheely’s is an opportunity for an fledging food or drink company to gain a place on competitive high streets without the added complexity of high-cost rent and utilities. It’s currently running as an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign that aims to deploy a café, which at the twist of a hand, can transform into a juice bar, a créperie or an ice-cream bar.

With Apps like Too Good To Go and companies like Deliveroo aiming to transport food, the Wheely Open Source Five can transport the entire branch around town. Last year alone the company shipped 500 cafés to 60 countries, and is now built with sustainability in mind, utilising solar panels, LED lights and electric motors.

Waste supermarkets

Leading UK supermarkets may have slashed the amount of food waste they produce by 20,000 tonnes, but that still leaves around 180,000 tonnes to tackle. Others are turning to initiatives like Neighbourly, but the Real Junk Food Project has recently opened its first warehouse in Leeds, that stores and sells waste supermarket food.

The waste market has deals in place with supermarkets including Sainsbury’s Morrisons and Ocado, and it also sources from local cafes, food banks, caterers and even allotments. People who visit the market are encouraged to pay only what they can afford.

For those who can’t afford to pay anything, they can volunteer for the project and act as staff at the warehouse instead. Real Junk Food Project also owns and runs cafes across the UK, which uses a similar donation system.

Matt Mace

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