Think.Eat.Save at Slow Food International’s Salone del Gusto - Terra Madre 2014

The Think.Eat.Save campaign took its messages into the heart of one of Europe’s largest food festivals this week.

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With an information booth at Slow Food International’s Salone del Gusto/Terra Madre event in Turin, Italy, tens of thousands of people who passed by had the opportunity to learn about the impacts of food waste and what they could do to reduce it. Close to 200 people were impressed enough by what they heard to make personal pledges to reduce food waste in their professional or personal lives.

The Think.Eat.Save campaign is a global effort to reduce food waste and losses around the world run by UNEP and the Save Food Initiative of the Food and Agricultural Organization along with WRAP UK, Feeding the 5000, and other supporters.

Worldwide, about one-third of all food produced – about 1.3 billion tonnes –gets lost or wasted across the food system. In industrialized regions almost half of the food squandered there –around 300,000 tonnes – comes as the result of producers, retailers and consumers discarding food that is still fit to eat. This is more than the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa, and would be sufficient to feed the more than the 800 million people hungry in the world.

Sustainable Food Systems consultant Clementine O’Connor, who has been working with UNEP on the campaign and on the development of a methodology to help households, business and governments reduce their food waste, spoke at a workshop entitled Our Daily Waste.

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Clementine presented an overview of the food security and environmental challenge presented by food waste, details of the Think.Eat.Save campaign, UNEP’s methodology for developing food waste prevention programmes and its piloting in South Africa. In the same session, Francesco Mele of Slow Food Italy discussed the need to value food in society, recommending that food culture should be taught and encouraged in schools. He is also emphasised that the waste of land resources should be highlighted when discussing the impacts of food waste. Anne-Laure Gassin of DG SANCO shared possible upcoming activities of the European Commission, including the launch of a working group of policy experts on food waste from across the Member States, EU support for awareness-raising and communications activities, EU guidance on food donation, and the promotion of better use of date labelling. Anne-Laure also mentioned the current lack of data on food waste at farm level, hindering the extension of the EU food waste prevention target on this sector. DG Connect funding for web entrepreneurs to scale up initiatives on food waste was also highlighted.

Slow Food International’s Salone del Gusto/Terre Madre festival is held every two years and brings together food producers from around the globe to present traditional, sustainably produced and fine foods from a broad range of countries. This year organisers were expecting up to a quarter of a million people to visit the event over its five days.

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A highlight of this year’s event was an appearance by internationally renowned British chef and food activist Jamie Oliver. Jamie, together with Slow Food president and UNEP Champion of the Earth Carlo Petrini, gave their endorsement to the Milan Protocol (www.milanprotocol.com), promoted by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation. The Protocol aims to raise awareness about the urgency of taking action to tackle the challenges involved in making the global food system truly sustainable. Specifically, it calls for a 50% reduction by 2020 of the amount of food wasted in the world, the promotion of a more sustainable agricultural system, and the war on hunger and obesity through healthy lifestyles.

Jamie picked up on the importance of edible education, not only ensuring that schoolchildren have access to a healthy, balanced lunch (his work has transformed practices in this area in the UK), but also that children understand how their food grows and connect to the local farmers who produce it. This connection, often developed by growing food in school gardens, has a significant effect on behaviours that lead to food waste. The upscaling of edible education, and the development of school curricula on food and food waste prevention, is a pressing challenge.

Finally, food waste activist Tristram Stuart, in a lecture magistralis, revealed that ugly fruit and vegetables are now the fastest growing sector in fresh produce in the UK, with some 390,000 tonnes sold last year that would previously have been used as feed or wasted. Many supermarkets across the EU have launched campaigns to encourage consumer acceptance of ugly produce, but it is important to ensure that at the same time, retailers make these products available on a permanent basis and adapt the aesthetic standards they impose on their suppliers, to ensure these media activities have real and lasting impacts on food waste prevention. Tristram added that a Food Surplus Entrepreneurs Network has recently been launched to facilitate exchange and collaboration in reducing food waste. Tristram finally discussed the Grocery Code Adjudicators Act in UK, that is transforming relationships between supermarkets and their suppliers, reducing the incidence of last minute order cancellations, for example, that can be a major cause of supply chain food waste.

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