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The amount of food we throw away and ways to reduce waste
Some families don’t know where their next meal is coming from while others are wasting hundreds of pounds-worth of food a year.
Enticing deals encourage shoppers to bulk-buy, but how much of the food is eaten and how much is thrown away?
According to a new report, British families are ‘significantly’ underestimating the amount of food they waste by £400 a year.
The news comes as a new report by the Fabian Society and Birds Eye, which looks at consumer attitudes to food waste, is discussed in Parliament.
The nationwide study shows that 92 per cent of households with children admit to throwing food away. The average family think they waste more than £270 a year (£5.20 a week) on food that is discarded without being used.
Yet, according to a recent study by the Waste and Resources Action Programme, the actual amount of edible household food waste is worth around £12bn, or around £680 a year (£13 a week) for the average family with children.
The report also highlights that vegetables account for a large proportion of wasted food. Fifty per cent of households with children are regularly binning their uneaten or unused greens, closely followed by bread and fruit.
Food waste is a huge problem for the UK and is causing concern for many families, with 62 per cent of those questioned saying they felt annoyed when they wasted food.
The study’s findings will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of those families who can hardly afford to eat for reasons ranging from the recession to personal circumstances.
In the past three years, the number of food parcels distributed by the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank to people in the Bradford district has trebled.
Food bank co-ordinator Ken Leach says two or three years ago the organisation was distributing between 70 and 80 food parcels a month, compared to the 250 to 260 they are currently giving out monthly now.
“I suspect it is partly because of the recession and the financial situation and also partly because we are more widely known,” says Ken.
While the nation feels guilty for wasting food, nearly 70 per cent of Brits have had to change their eating habits as a result of the economic downturn, with 47 per cent eating out less and 24 per cent buying cheaper food.
Families with children at home are most likely to adapt their behaviour due to the economic climate, with 26 per cent eating the same food at mealtimes.
According to the findings, the main reason for people wasting food is largely down to people buying more food than they need, with 22 per cent doing so because of supermarket offers including ‘buy one get one free’ deals or similar.
The research champions buying frozen food as one way to save, both in terms of wastage and money. The study also revealed an information gap when it comes to the benefits of buying frozen produce, with many not realising that some foods can be frozen, such as milk, fish and herbs, without losing quality or flavour.
Emma Hill, sustainable project manager with BEAT (Bradford Environmental Action Trust), says: “It is a huge problem. People are not understanding how much they are wasting.”
Emma says unlike some authorities, Bradford doesn’t have separate kerbside collections for food waste so householders don’t get to see the extent of their food wastage, but she says there are plenty of things we can do to stem the situation. She suggests that writing lists and pre-planning meals, being inventive with leftovers and not impulse-buying would all help prevent food wastage.
The University of Bradford generates around 2,000 tonnes of food waste per month throughout its campus – the majority coming from the kitchen and students’ residences – but it is put to a viable use as compost used by the gardeners and the students’ growing group on the university allotment.
Ben Tongue, the university’s estates environmental manager, explains that composting is part of the university’s ecoversity sustainable development initiative.
“Essentially it is to reduce our environmental impact as far as possible. We have done a lot around recycling. More than 85 per cent of our waste gets diverted from landfill. This is one of the next steps we are making to improving our waste management,” says Ben.
A spokesman for WRAP, Waste and Resource Action programme which runs a range of services including the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, says: “We are always pleased to encourage consumers to find ways to get the best value out of the food they buy.”
* For more tips and advice, visit lovefoodhatewaste.com.