For Food System and Food Waste activists, please find linked below a very informative piece on the packing and distribution of vegetables and “surplus,” – a concept itself we might seek to re-imagine. One definitely sees supermarkets having too much market share and therefore power to define the situation in which waste is normalised. I’m all in favour of the middle-scaled ground of wholesaling with its chain through town markets and other smaller grocery venues attracting our customer support (a little different from farmers’ markets per se, which I also support). We need to furthermore be thinking about ethical and local procurement for schools, canteens, care homes etc., and councils can help with this, a level at which hopefully “stakeholders” from various points of view should have influence.

Of course wounds need plasters, and NO ONE SHOULD BE HUNGRY. But let’s be careful how we link food waste with hunger, because causes and effects of both are really complicated. For the moment I don’t give an automatic thumbs up to “solutions” that legislate that supermarkets give waste to charities, as this degrades value for farmers, enshrines waste in the system, and institutionalises a charity approach to hunger — let alone gives a message of shame to people needing social support and help. Food is a right and governments need to recognise this. More on these thoughts soon.

In the meantime, this is a really practical article (and blog in general) to get us thinking.

It’s great that the volume of this conversation keeps rising, at the moment thanks to Hugh’s War On Waste on television, and of course gratitude to all the background work done in food waste salvage from field to skip and community feast events and cafes in saving food and raising awareness.  I also see a great opportunity here in which the often polarised perspectives of farmers and environmentalists can be narrowed, because there’s so much room to work together on shared concerns as we re-localise, or at least, focus on smaller hubs of food production and consumption to reduce waste with all its ecological footprint and ensure value and reward for people who grow food.

systems4food

In my last blog I questioned the volumes of waste or rather surplus produce in the supply chain. I also raised the question why this surplus arises.
The majority of fresh produce in the UK is being grown for supermarket sales, as currently, apart from some relatively small volumes of local or direct sales, they are the only outlets that can handle the volumes required to give an economic return. There are secondary markets which include processing for freezing and manufacturing sectors, catering food service and  finally wholesale outlets. All of these markets have different requirements and what one sector wants is often different to others.
When planning a crop growers usually (almost always) have the end market in mind. The cropping plan, soils, fertiliser regime, pesticides applied, plant spacing, irrigation, harvest and storage conditions all determine the suitability of a product for its end market. Long gone are the…

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