Durham Re-f-uses to waste

By Jack Eardley

If just half the food wasted in the USA was put to better use then world hunger would end.

Amid growing concerns surrounding how to feed a rapidly growing world population, food waste should surely be given greater consideration. 

Re-f-use is a Durham based social enterprise designed to highlight the problems of food waste as well as solving them through community lead action. They are part of the Real Junk Food Project and run regular pay-as-you-feel dinners using only food that would otherwise be wasted. They are currently working tirelessly to open a permanent café in Chester-Le-Street, but managed to find time to answer some questions for Palatinate SciTech.

Nikki from Re-f-use refers to food as a ‘social glue’. She runs a regular primary school project to help children learn about the value of food and where it comes from, as well as allowing them to organise their own pay-as-you-feel food stall. Re-f-use is not a charity but is run with the aim to make profit in the process of doing as much social good as possible and investing in the community.

The social and environmen­tal impact of food waste is far-reaching; if food waste in the UK was eliminated tomorrow, the emissions savings would equate to taking 25% of vehicles off the road. It is well known that hungry school children perform notice­ably worse than well-fed children in school. Additionally, the water used to produce food that is wast­ed, would be enough to support the domestic needs of 9 billion people, if there were that many.

Nikki says that food waste has gradually decreased in recent years, thanks partly to a positive impact from campaigns like Love Food Hate Waste. Food waste is a problem that needs to be tackled from a number of directions; Re-f-use is just one part of this. Food surpluses from supermarkets is still a significant problem that is not noticeably improving. Supermarkets are starting to work with charities like Fareshare to try and redirect their waste to those in food poverty; with more public awareness and pressure more will be done.

This problem is not just the responsibility of big corporations. Nikki from Re-f-use stresses that there is much Durham students can do. It isn’t necessary to force yourself to eat spoiled food but by filling your freezer and only making use of deals like ‘buy one get one free’ when you need them you can make a real impact. Engaging in food sharing with friends or through specialised apps like OLIO can also reduce food waste in the student community.

Making personal changes and redistributing wasted food to those in need is important, but changes to the system of producing and consuming food are needed if food waste is to be eliminated. Food waste charity Feedback is working with governments, businesses and NGOs to promote their vision to end food waste.

They want to link all stages of the food cycle together and ensure waste is used not only for charity but for growing new food as fertiliser, or feeding animals. By encouraging the use of waste at all stages of production and consumption, they believe food waste can be eliminated.

Hopefully, one day, seeing baguettes and pineapples in a landfill will be a thing of the past.

Photograph: via Wikimedia Commons

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