Sprouts are just the tip of the iceberg

I don’t think I’m alone in rejoicing at the price increase of sprouts this year. These vegetables are banned in my house and none have passed my lips since I was 15. But I still go to places where they’re piled onto my plate. I’m not one for generating unnecessary waste but I have to draw the line at sprouts. Hopefully with the price rise we’ll be seeing less of the dreaded green balls this Christmas.

But the price increase in food generally in recent years is one we should be worried about. It raises questions about food security and the sustainability of supply at a local, national and international level. The WI‘s latest campaign, due to launch properly in 2013, will focus on just this. The Great Food Debate is an attempt to start a more detailed debate about food  – where it comes from, what is required for a healthy diet and the best way to achieve a secure and sustainable future for everyone.

It has joined forces with IPPR Trading and produced a report Food for Thought: Global and National Challenges of Food Security to kickstart the debate. While it covers everything from population growth, the impact of speculation on the commodity markets, the growing numbers of families struggling to buy healthy and nutritious food and the production and consumption of food I’d like to focus on one area – food waste.

The price of sprouts has increased by 70%


Photo: Bill Longshaw

In the UK householders still throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food each year, 65% which is considered to be still edible, according to WRAP. Costing £12 billion it’s estimated on average each person throws away 70kg of food each year. WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign has been successful at local level, with many councils encouraging people to decrease home food waste. Combined with food waste collections – once people realise how much is being thrown away they quickly change their habits – progress is being made, albeit slowly. In addition nearly 60% of food waste occurs before it gets to the consumer, so there’s still work to do from a producer and retailer point of view.

How can we still afford to throw this much away?

A sustainable approach is all about supporting diversification, helping local economies produce healthy and wealthy communities. There’s great scope for improving food supply, encouraging people to buy local and seasonal, and generating less waste in the process. Weaning people off foods made with cheap, highly refined fats, oils and carbohydrates and promoting healthier alternatives.

We’ll need a balance of technological, economic and environmental changes to meet demand in a sustainable way, but let’s start the debate. We’ve got plenty to talk about.


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