Report Synopsis

Eat your sprouts! Tackling the food waste issue

Maeve Whyte

Food waste is a global issue and widely recognised as having a negative impact on society, the economy, the environment, the climate and food security. It is also a moral concern that food is wasted to such a huge extent when so many, in both developed and developing countries, still go hungry.

My study and travels were focused on food waste issues and solutions arising in the developed world. I wanted to see how farmers who faced similar problems to those in the UK were dealing with the issue and look at whether solutions found elsewhere could provide food for thought for UK farmers. I therefore focused on activities in the EU and USA.

The objectives of my Nuffield Farming study were therefore:

  • To investigate food waste on farm and the impact this has on growers and their businesses.
  • To look at where innovative steps have been taken to reduce food waste and highlight some inspiring solutions.
  • To assess the barriers to finding ways of reducing food waste on farm.

Reducing food waste is a ‘movement’; some have even called it a revolution. Food waste is an issue that everyone can associate with and is engaging the public, policy makers and politicians. Previous experience indicates that where farmers have not been at the forefront of developments relating to food and its production they have often suffered the consequences of measures determined by those beyond the farm gate. Farmers should therefore be thoroughly engaged to shape solutions, opportunities and outcomes.

My research indicates that the most successful projects to reduce food waste are often those that are carried out in partnership with either other farmers or other members of the food chain. Cooperation is therefore vital. I also believe that farmers need to be more proactive and see solutions as an opportunity. Reducing food waste at farm level does not have to be rocket science but does require thought, investment, ingenuity and courage in various measures.

As projects and initiatives at national and EU level continue to develop and drive the debate, my report recommends that farmers and their representatives should reposition themselves at the heart of food waste discussions.

A farmer friendly ‘space’ that includes practical examples of success stories at primary production level should be developed as it would help inform and inspire others to engage with the issue.

Quantifying food waste on farm is an inherently difficult task. As such, I recommend that the industry should be open to taking measures to ensure data collection is as accurate as possible. Some of these measures may not be popular but they are necessary.

Lastly, Government and others should create a favourable legislative environment for farmers to prevent and reduce food waste and to innovate

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