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8 social movements to reduce food waste

This article introduces the social movements working to tackle food waste in Europe. Let's explore them and their motivations.

There are many social movements, organisations and individuals targeting their actions towards the reduction of food waste.

And, there are many different motivations: reducing food poverty; politics and anti-capitalism; concern for the environment; valuing traditional food preparation; building community by sharing meals and food.

Some movements have developed into international organisations with campaigns and activities aimed at raising awareness and inspiring society to do something about the food waste scandal.

Here are some you may be interested in finding out more about.

1. Slow Food

The Slow Food movement was founded in 1987 in Italy as a response to the rise of the fast-food culture. The aim was to preserve local Italian cooking traditions and regional food products.

It has developed into an international organisation that advocates for the production of sustainable local food, preserving biodiversity and the reduction of food waste. Slow Food’s mission states that food should be good, clean and fair.

2. Food Sharing

A volunteer-led movement promoting food sharing to fight food waste started in Germany in 2012. It uses a social network or an online platform to distribute food items among registered users.

As of April 2020, Food Sharing in Germany has saved more than 32 million kilograms of food, all achieved by volunteers who organise themselves in their own time to fight food waste.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

3. Freeganism

Freeganism is a set of practices targeting food waste as both a political act and as a form of alternative self-provisioning. Freegans are often anti-consumption, living off discarded food by, for example, ‘dumpster diving’ which involves sorting through commercial garbage for edible food.

Depending on the country and its legislation, the activity can be a punishable offence.

4. Stop Wasting Food

Denmark’s biggest movement against food waste is led by activist Selina Juul. It started in 2008 when Juul launched a Facebook group that later grew into a non-profit organisation called Stop Wasting Food (Stop Splid Af Mad).

Juul started publishing opinion editorials and articles about food waste in Danish and international newspapers, many of them co-written with prominent politicians. She also collaborated with Danish chefs to publish ‘Stop Wasting Food: A cookbook and more’.

The organisation has contributed to a major milestone: Denmark has managed to reduce food waste by a quarter in five years.

Here’s a short BBC TV documentary about Denmark’s Food Waste Vigilante.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

5. Celebrity chefs and food politics

Celebrity chefs, particularly in the UK, are also prominent in the food politics agenda. In 2011, UK celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall filmed a series of TV programmes that investigated current practices in the fishing industry.

The series led to the campaign ‘Hugh’s Fish Fight’, aimed at changing the EU laws and arrangements that lead to discarding and wasting half the fish caught in the North Sea. The campaign garnered much support from NGOs, the fishing industry, local and national policymakers as well as the general public.

In 2016, he hosted a BBC series ‘Hugh’s War on Waste’ where he investigated food waste across the supply chain.

6. Food Waste Authors

Tristram Stuart’s Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal (2009), and Jonathan Bloom’s American Wasteland: Why America Throws Away Nearly Half Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) (2011) are both examples of successful authors popularising the political agenda around food waste.

These two books have compiled statistics and highlighted the extent of the problem in a popular and accessible way. The books have given their authors a platform for their activism. Stuart, for example, has staged events such as ‘Feeding the 5000’, founded environmental campaign group Feedback, and the start-up ToastAle.

7. Feedback

Feedback is an environmental organisation founded in 2013 that campaigns to end food waste at every level of the food system.

They work with governments, international institutions, businesses, NGOs, and the public to change society’s attitude towards wasting food. Relevant initiatives include Feedback’s Gleaning Network aiming to reduce farm-level food waste, and Feeding the 5000.

8. Other charities and NGOs

Organisations that redistribute discarded food such as Second Harvest in the US and FoodCycle or FareShare in the UK, have negotiated arrangements with major food retailers to divert surplus food from the waste stream and into the community kitchens with the aim of reducing food poverty as well as reducing waste.

If you’d like to learn more about tackling food waste, check out the full online course, from EIT, below.

© EIT Food
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From Waste to Value: How to Tackle Food Waste

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