Has food ever tasted so good? For dinner, on any given night I can have Greek salad, Keralan curry, Lebanese meze, Caribbean chicken or good old spag bol finishing off with Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream. Yum. Yum. Yum. My mouth is watering.
That’s why sometimes I just can’t resist Instagramming my dinner. Who wouldn’t want to see how beautifully I’ve drizzled my balsamic vinegar dressing over the crisp, green lettuce leaves? Or that incredible multi-layered, to-die-for carrot cake that a waiter has just set down before me?
As a generation, we may well be more fascinated by food than any generation that has gone before us. It’s hardly surprising when those of us who live in affluent countries can have whatever we want to eat, whenever we want; and a completely different thing the next night. We’re on sensory overload and dribbling at the vast array of delicacies on offer.
My taste buds drive what I eat; I’d much, much rather have what I fancy, than use up the vegetables slightly past their best in my fridge. It’s so very different from how my parents and their parents thought of food… my mum says that my granny could make food out of nothing. No matter how poor they were, how measly post-war rations looked, she could always make something worth eating.
Waste-not-want-not was the motto of the generations that went before us at a time when there just wasn’t that much to eat. If you didn’t use up what was in the fridge or larder, you wouldn’t eat.
Yet we now live in a time when a third of all food produced globally is wasted. It’s an extraordinary figure when we know that people around the corner from us and millions worldwide go to bed hungry every night.
Are the Instagram-loving millennials to blame for this food waste mountain? A recent study certainly points towards that suggesting “… those aged 18 to 34 are preoccupied by the visual presentation of food to photograph and share on social media while failing to plan meals, buying too much and then throwing it away.” While nearly 40 per cent of those aged over 65 say they never waste food, only 17 per cent of those under 35 could make the same claim.
The fast-moving culture around us certainly doesn’t help. We’ve grown up with so much instantly available. Amazon Prime Now promises to deliver essential groceries in just two hours. The rise of small, local supermarkets seemingly on every corner means we can shop every day for food that night; we don’t need to plan or prepare. What’s the point?
But, this all must and does inevitably produce food waste. And any food that is produced uses up resources from the earth as well as generating greenhouse gas emissions; and anything that is thrown away produces methane which is 25 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. And all of this contributes to climate change which is right now hitting those who live in the poorest communities the hardest.
But I believe that many of the solutions to this huge issue also lie within our generation. Millennials are entrepreneurs; always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to tackle the world’s great injustices. And they are the ones leading the way in the food waste revolution.
Take Adam Smith who founded the innovative Real Junk Food Project and the Pay What You Feel network. There are loads of these cafés across the country as well as Europe and Australia using this model, revolutionising the way we think about food waste and ‘feeding bellies, not bins’. Or Nikki Dravers, who set up ReFUSE in Durham; or the guys behind Surplus Kitchen in Stafford, pop-up restaurants serving amazing meals in their local communities all out of food that would otherwise have been thrown away. Jenny Dawson, the mastermind behind Rubies in the Rubble is another food waste innovator. Her tasty relishes and ketchups made from waste fruit and veg can be found in Waitrose, Eat sandwiches and the super-posh Selfridges food hall in London!
These millennial pioneers are paving the way for a different approach to food. They are celebrating the ugly, unwanted and unloved; and re-creating it into something tasty and desirable. Our culture might be dictating that we are a throwaway generation; more concerned with speed and efficiency than caring much about the planet. There is some truth in our insatiable desire for the immediate and we certainly need to be challenging this mentality. But when you look deeper, you’ll also find us thinking up crazy ideas to tackle the world’s greatest injustices. You’ll find us; God’s sons and daughters, full of his Spirit, prophesying a different way to live; seeing visions of a more sustainable, ethical and equal future (Joel 2:28).
Take action on your own food waste today with Tearfund’s new Renew our World campaign.