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10 initiatives to counter food waste

Sustainability / -

Ten initiatives to counter food waste
© decode_imageBroker_Corbis

Food sharing, awareness campaigns, cooking with leftovers. Initiatives are springing up everywhere to counter food waste. Every year there is still much good food being thrown away.

Buy too much food and in the wrong quantities, follow expiry dates on packaging to the letter and you'll waste a lot. According to the FAO every year, 30 percent of the food produced for human consumption is wasted, and according to data from UNEP, the United Nations program for the environment, food thrown out or left to rot equals half of the world’s annual cereal production.
There is an increasing number of initiatives involving governments, organizations and businesses, from supermarkets to individual snack bars or restaurants, to avoid wasting food: here is a roundup of just some of the ideas already in place in the world to inspire us, to eat better and not wasteful.
From the supermarket to the associations
In Belgium, in the municipalities of Herstal and Namur, a new law requires supermarkets to donate unsold products that are still good to voluntary associations which help those in need.
Recirculated food... on a bike
In Lisbon, through the Refood project, hundreds of volunteers are cycling around for restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, supermarkets and private homes to retrieve leftover food, taking it to associations that provide aid to the poor in the local area. In the district of Nossa Senhora de Fatima there are more than 100 locals participating and more than 300 volunteers; in Telheira there are 200 volunteers and 150 shops signed up.
A license to eat!
In Helsinki, in the area of Roihuvuori, there is a strong focus on sharing food in the neighborhood: local residents can bring their excess food or make use of what’s available through the project "Saa syödä" (literally: "license to eat")a project that was developed by private companies and supported by the Ministry of the Environment.
Recovery of food and awareness from an early age
In Denmark, the consumer movement Stop Wasting Food continues its fight against food waste with awareness campaigns in schools and through public lectures and seminars. What’s more, with the collaboration of renowned Danish chef the association has created a series of cookbooks, the Leftovers Cookbook, which explains how to reuse leftovers of meals to cook new dishes.
What is this food? Ugly but good
In France, supermarket chain Intermarché has launched a campaign called Inglorious fruits and vegetables, which aims to sell vegetables that are aesthetically ugly, but still good: according to European standards, "ugly fruit" has no market appeal and goes straight from the field to landfill even though it’s still perfectly edible. Thanks to this campaign, fruits and vegetables with strange shapes are rehabilitated and helps to sensitize people to the fact that certain products may be ugly but are still cute. In a test bench in the produce section where dedicated packaging emphasizes their goodness, stores in which the campaign was implemented recorded in just a few months, a 24 percent increase in sales.
Shopping for bad ... but good fruits
Similar to the French experience Ugly Fruits was born in Germany: a campaign of rehabilitation of aesthetically ugly but nutritionally good fruit launched by three students. Thanks to their initiative a now lumpy lemon, or discolored zucchini or misshapen carrots are on supermarket shelves and tables. The dream of the three students, as reported by Der Spiegel is to see the emergence of "Ugly Fruits" supermarkets, stores that sell only products that are rejected by other chains.
Neighborhood refrigerators 
Again in Germany, but in Berlin, sit two refrigerators in the courtyard of an apartment building in the district of Kreuzberg that house food just past or close to its expiry date or leftover or aesthetically ugly fruit and vegetables. These shared fridges are filled by volunteers who deal with surplus collections from businesses, shops and restaurants, but also by ordinary people in the neighborhood.
Freaks of nature at the table
Also in Germany in 2012 is Culinary Misfits, a catering company that creates dishes using only ingredients discarded by restaurants and supermarkets because of their unconventional shape or fruits and vegetables with bruises that do not meet the aesthetic and dimensional parameters. Thus they become good and tasty ingredients in dishes that are prepared for parties, receptions and events of all kinds. The idea came from two former German designers Lea Emma Brumasck and Tanja Krakowski, whose initiative, "culinary misfits" has a name that speaks ironically about the aesthetic appearance of fruits and vegetables as “freaks of nature” but also dispels the common belief that food is only good if it's good looking.
Treasures in the trash...
Rubies in the Rubble is an example from England and demonstrates how you can avoid wasting food and at the same time address the problems of unemployment and social exclusion. The project aims to bring about a change in the local community by providing employment to people in need and goes against the current culture of excessive waste, using discarded fruits and vegetables to make chutneys and jams.
Food sharing is social too
Nick Papadopoulos, tired of throwing unsold products of her family's farm, Bloomfield Organics, launched an online community platform CropMobster. This tool allows farmers, traders, restaurateurs in the San Francisco Bay Area to publish advertisements of surplus food for sale, donation, or business. Messages are immediately sent via the website to various social media, including Facebook and Twitter. Since its launch in March 2013 CropMobster has put $500,000 into the circulation of food, about one million servings for people, food banks, schools and other groups in need.
A visit to Expo Milano 2015 will be a way to get to know and appreciate the history of food, to figure out what is going on around the food that we find on our tables every day. Walking through the Pavilions of the Participant Countries will become a path of awareness, which leads us to appreciate and give value to food.

Alex Zanotelli. Against the globalization of indifference, let us share bread

Culture / -

Alex Zanotelli, missionario Comboniano, ispiratore e fondatore di più movimenti italiani che hanno l'obiettivo di creare le condizioni della pace e di una società solidale, in cui gli ultimi abbiano cittadinanza.
© Andrea Baldo/Demotix/Corbis

Reading the biography of Alex Zanotelli and hearing him speak, we are reminded of the words of Cameroon's Catholic theologian, Jean-Marc Ela: "Every day, in the name of the Gospel, the history of effective liberation of the oppressed is written.” His life has been spent on a mission focused on food, hunger, pacifist networks and demonstrations.

After a life in Africa, as a Combonian missionary, first in Sudan and then in Nairobi, you are now in Naples, in Rione Sanità. Is your mission to help people regain hope, wherever you are?
Let me answer with the teaching of Don Lorenzo Milani: "Another's trouble is the same as my own. To free ourselves together is political. To free oneself alone is greed." My mission is to build a sense of trust among people, so that we pull together to free ourselves of trouble.

Is there a good motto both for Italy and for Africa?
The whole of humanity needs to be heard, comforted and followed. I think that a mission is to walk with people and carry their loads. I feel that I am deeply on a mission in this neighborhood. Paradoxically, for the people in Africa - being, as it were, more energetic, less bottled in itself – it could be easier to get out of difficult situations, regarding certain things that I see here in Naples. There is a kind of hopelessness in the air, a sense of resignation, so nothing happens. In the southern hemisphere there is more strength, more freshness. This, despite the fact that in Africa people have to deal with different issues, a tragic history of oppressive regimes and horrendous events which have lasted for five centuries: from slavery, colonialism to neo-colonialism. All legacies which led the Jesuit padre, Engelbert Mveng Cameroon, University of Yaounde, to speak of anthropological poverty.

What does anthropological poverty means?
It is a kind of poverty that strikes at Man’s very being and because of their traumatic past, Africans feel deprived of their identity and that which epitomizes their being in the world: their history, culture and language. As a result they sense almost a rejection of themselves.
How do they extricate themselves from that?
By nurturing a sense of dignity, as shown by the work of Steve Biko in South Africa.

You have witnessed many stories of recovery, of communities who rise up from poverty. What is the first step?
Rather than calling on cooperative projects, with help arriving top-down, we need to lend our support. One of the feelings I remember most is when I was teaching at a school in Khartoum. At that moment I felt that I lived relatively well in comparison to the people around me. I said to myself: it's not fair; if I do not live through what they are suffering, I do not know what to do. In Korogocho, I took this approach, I lived as people around me lived.

And how did you live?
Those were harsh times, full of tension. Korogocho is one of the worst slums on the outskirts of Nairobi, built on a small hill two kilometers by one. I lived with them to understand how come it had got to such a state. To fight alongside them. The problem was and still is the land.

So is land the problem?
The first thing that became very clear is that people will never be able take a step forward if they do not obtain rights to the land. The land where the slum dwellers live in Nairobi is entirely owned by the government. There are over 4 million people living there, and 70 percent of them are forced to live cramped conditions – well actually, like sardines – in 200 slums that occupy only 3 percent of the capital’s land. That land belongs not to those who live there, the poor, but to the government. It was crucial to fight for the land, so we made our move. It was a long and hard fight for that land, so that shacks built there could become their property: becoming theirs, they would improve their homes, they would cultivate the land. All this, without heroics, without being good. As Don Milani used to say, "Make way for the poor, without paving the way." It is the poor who must make their own way.

So, it comes down to tools from the community itself, are those simply provided. And what about what you wrote in the editorial on Nigrizia "The Italian face of African hunger" in 1985: has anything changed?
Even today, I would still not refer to cooperation, if players are big companies and banks. Italy manages extraordinary grass-root activities, with small groups, small communities and organizations making contact and giving a hand to those in need to pick themselves up. I wonder why all this activity cannot achieve political stature. I dream of a ministry of co-operation, but not under Foreign Affairs (because it is "business-led"), to allow these communities, these organizations to have direct contact with local businesses in developing countries, enabling them to carry out thousands and thousands of small, practical cooperative initiatives.

In your life you have often lived next door to people who have little to eat. Recently, Pope Francis said, "What we throw away, is as if it were stolen from the soup kitchen."
And that is the truth. It's amazing that with the food we throw away in Italy alone, would be enough to eradicate hunger in Africa. The hunger problem is a consequence of the system. 10 percent of the world population consumes 90 percent of the goods produced by this system, while the rest of the population simply has to put up with things. It is a system that allows a few to have everything, and consume at the expense of many who are starving.

In your daily work today of giving relief, food, courage, moments of happiness, does the gesture of meditation before a meal, help to restore energy, strength and redemption from suffering?
Mealtmes, not only for those who suffer, but also for those who are well, become crucial, in spiritual terms. Our society has forgotten the sacredness of eating together and prayer before a meal is an antidote to this, a fundamental aspect of redemption. What our civilization produces is indifference. The Pope speaks of the globalization of indifference. To counter this, I recommend the rediscovery of spirituality, of prayer, of contemplation, of the ritual of breaking bread at the table. It becomes imperative that every family invite home someone who is in need, that they be accepted. Petty charity is not what’s needed; rather, inviting them home, sharing a meal, welcoming them – that is.
Some of these words are found in Soldi e Vangelo (Money and Gospel), a flyer you just published.
Yes, in Soldi e Vangelo I took the text, Chapter 16 of the Gospel of Luke, setting it in the modern day and contextualizing the words of Jesus. According to some historians, Jesus lived through an intense period in Galilee, where 90 percent of the people were on the absolute poverty line. The contrast between rich and poor is the mirror image of the world in which Jesus lived. The poverty of his people was due to the fact that few became rich and lived as lords. And for this he proposed an economy of equality. Today we would use terms such "jubilee", "forgiven debt" that I would like be more part of homilies, of catechesis, along with two commandments:
- Try not to get wealthy (why take away something from others; you cannot get away with it);
- If you have, you have to share.

This is true for money, but I think it also applies to food. Will we talk about it in Milan in 2015?
It will be an important opportunity, and one we should use wisely.

Camilla Baresani. I discovered women’s strength in Ecuador

Culture / -

Camilla Baresani intervista

The writer and Ambassador of Women for Expo, guest at the event organised by Oxfam and IO Donna during the Women's Weeks, talks about her journey among women in rural communities of Ecuador.

“We need to start from women to break down barriers and poverty”: this is the main theme of a meeting organised by Oxfam and IO woman during the Women's Weeks. Last year she collected the voices of the women of rural communities in Ecuador in which Oxfam operates. How, in your opinion, can women be the engine of economic and social change?
I think we need to start from women for everything, not only to break down barriers and poverty but in general, because the world has been malfunctioning, so far; it is a jammed mechanism that needs to reset. In particular in areas like the ones I visited with Oxfam, where there is little or nothing and men do not collaborate and wage war, drink, and cause more harm instead of being useful, and only women can take charge of their lives and those of their children and start  creating the conditions to live in an acceptable way. It is a reality that Oxfam has made possible for many small communities. Of course, it should be applied on a larger scale, but it is in small communities that it can germinate and spread. Women can teach other women to cultivate and then nourish their children and themselves and sell what they grow.
How crucial are training and access to education for girls in this kind of context?
It is fundamental. What I learned by travelling with Oxfam is that female illiteracy is a huge problem. Until the past generation, girls had no access to education, and only boys studied and then there is the problem of violence against girls, who risk being raped when crossing fields to get to school.

We need to make it possible for girls to access education even to learn how to count, to manage their household accounts as well their harvests when they grow up. This is the real problem of mothers, you can give them better seeds and tools to learn how to cultivate, but they also need to be able to count, to keep a small budget of what they do. What remains is that all the mothers I have met have one dream: that their daughters can study and change their lives because they were never able to do so.
Women represent 43% of the agricultural labour force, but they are often the poorest and most vulnerable subjects in many parts of the world. According to you, what are the priorities to be addressed to rectify this contradiction?
Unfortunately we have to talk about priorities in the plural form: education, not only schooling, but also in the field of agriculture is one of these, and also the cultivation techniques and having access to better seeds. Then, unfortunately, but this is a longer task, it would be essential to have more women in the police forces and judiciary system. In these countries, where there are mainly men, a woman enduring violence has no rights, no defense and is always the victim, it is written on her forehead. Their abusers, regardless if  husbands or neighbours, are hardly ever imprisoned.
The short film by Maite Bulgari, “Hungry for waste”, will be presented in a preview during the “I have seen women ...” meeting organised by Oxfam at Expo Milano 2015, a reflection of hunger and waste, two sides of the same coin, two extremes of a global paradox. In your opinion which are the concrete actions to take in the fight against food waste?
I think schooling is fundamental. Parents are unable to educate, to teach because they themselves had no schooling. On the issue of food, there is great ignorance even in our developed countries and there is no awareness. If we think, for example, about what we are triggering when we eat meat indiscriminately and therefore to the C02 emissions and the pollution of aquifers. There is no awareness on the importance of the variety of the plant world. If we divert the resources reserved to breed animals for slaughter to cultivating, there would be more food for everyone. Schools should devote an hour a week to civic and food education, teach how to preserve things for others. When I was little we were aware of the many children who nothing to eat, today children grow up thinking they can eat anything at any time and their idea is that food resources are infinite. It is not so, unfortunately, they are not distributed properly.
Among the women you met in Ecuador, is there is one who changed your way of looking at this type of reality?
It was the sum of meetings that hit me, not just one. In one week we visited three different places, one in the Amazon and two in the Andes. In these places, where there is a small rural economy, men have depopulated the countryside and now there are only women, children and old people. Men are a calamity here, when they return they rape, beat, and drink and spend money not for the family, but for their pleasures. Everything is placed in the strength of these women who are willing to learn, to grow and pick up their lives without having to depend on others. The women I met are extremely satisfied and proud when they learn, when they do so hiding away from their husbands, when they meet in the community and this is the possible paradox because the men have left, Oxfam was able to operate there because there were no men.

Camilla Baresani is Ambassador of Expo Milano 2015. Read her biography and interview on the website.
On the occasion of the Women's Weeks of Expo Milano 2015 she was among the writers, film makers and Italian entrepreneurs who participated in the event organised by Oxfam and IO Donna at the Cascina Triulza on June 29.


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