Fighting Food Waste

Such was the title of the conference moderated by educator and president of Ecoquartieri Italian association Francesco Mele and held at Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre 2012 on Sunday October 28th. After reminding the audience of key figures such as the 95 kilos of food wasted per year by the average European citizen, he invited the panel of experts to share their vision on the subject.

 Stefano Masini, the environment area director of Coldiretti (Italy), reflected that the current economic crisis might have a mechanical positive effect on the level of food waste generated, with people buying less than before and paying more attention to what they throw away. He also introduced the idea that in the past decades, an increase in GDP was the goal to reach, paradoxically generating a growth in waste. But how about happiness, he questioned the audience, did it benefit from the same dynamics ? ‘’Give food its value back !’’ he concluded.

 After having listed the three waste reduction directions on which the Italian retailer Conad is working (size and location of shops, energy and consumers’ food education), Mauro Lusetti, its managing director, shared the highlights of the project they started in around 20 stores with Last Minute Market. Over the past year, 124 tons of foods with label or packaging issues were recovered and used to create around 500,000 meals. He said he was hoping the number of participating points of sales would increase in the future.

 Slow Food Germany president Ursula Hudson brought yet another perspective to the conference: the food waste due to esthetic standards for vegetables. During fun events organized by SF Germany since September 2011, volunteers collect vegetables such as split beetroots or weird-shaped carrots from nearby farms, mostly organic. Joined by many more voluntary hands and with the help of activist chef Wam Kat, they prepare banquets for thousands of people. ‘’These tangible and enjoyable food events remind participants of the value of food.’’ she concluded. Pleasure and responsibility, the recipe Slow Food believes in.

 Last to speak was Last Minute Market founder and University of Bologna professor Andrea Segrè. He stressed the idea that food waste also means soil, water and energy waste, resources that take time to renew. He echoed Masini’s and Hudson’s statement on the value of food and questioned the percentage of households’ expenditure on food, which has steadily decreased over the past decades to a mere 18%. Wouldn’t increasing it to, say, 21% by giving up on other less useful elements be a way to pay a more fair price for food and give it back its true value ? He concluded by pointing out that, while Last Minute Market is an efficient solution to reduce existing waste, much remains to be done to reduce waste upstream. This is the objective of ‘’Zero Waste’’, a project he is working on with the EU. A first step is an action-oriented charter listing 10 very simple actions that can be implemented by local administrations. The city of Turin, who signed this charter during the conference, will therefore be able to enforce concrete actions such as the ones recommended in the area of food labelling.

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