Food Waste on the Cover of National Geographic – What would paddington bear say?

Tristram with Tangelo

Tristram Stuart with 1000-tonne heap of rotting Tangelo.

Food waste is on the march cover of the world-renowned National Geographic magazine. After visiting food producers in Peru, Feedback founder Tristram Stuart found this 1000-tonne heap of delcious Tangelo – a kind of ultra-juicy tangerine – rotting in the desert. So, what would Paddington Bear have to say?

Paddington could have made an awful lot of his favourite marmalade, but the producer of this citrus crop routinely wastes over a thousand tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables even while 3.6 million of his compatriots are malnourished. It’s not his fault that so much food is wasted – so who’s responsibility is it?

IMG_2948

Can you spot the blemish?

Feedback has so far conducted research trips to Kenya, Colombia, Guatemala and Costa Rica: in most of these locations, producers growing for export regularly waste between 10 and 50% of their harvests thanks to the unfair and unnecessary policies of powerful European and American buyers. In the case of these oranges they were being wasted because of minor unavoidable skin blemishes that mean they fail European supermarkets’ ultra-strict cosmetic standards. Can hardly see the blemish? That is the point: it’s nearly invisible. The fruit on the inside is perfectly good; supermarkets could sell it to willing consumers; but instead, anything that the local markets in Peru can’t absorb, simply goes to waste.

It doesn’t need to be this way: if supermarkets relaxed their standards, and helped their producers find other less fussy buyers, and the remainder were donated to local charities, there wouldn’t be anything like this kind of waste. Importers often try to wriggle out of paying for produce by claiming it failed to meet cosmetic standards, when in reality the reason they are cancelling the order is because they’ve failed to find a market for it themselves, or sometimes it’s just a fraudulent way of exploiting relatively powerless suppliers in far-off countries. Feedback has already shown it’s possible to design waste out of these systems, when supermarkets take responsibility for the waste they cause. If you want supermarkets to Stop Dumping waste on their suppliers, sign up to our Stop Dumping campaign.

Needless to say, while Tristram was in Lima he saved a token few hundred kilos of food from going to waste and with that brought together a range of local partners (and an array of local and international media) to celebrate the delicious solutions to food waste at Lima’s second ever Disco Sopa. Dozens of volunteers came together to chop and prepare an absolutely mouth-watering feast under the awe-inspiring guidance of top Lima chef Palmiro Ocampo. With the collaboration of of Lia Celi Castro, General Manager of Banco de Alimentos Peru (the Peruvian Food Bank) a group of local orphans joined in the food prep, including one young trainee chef, and they took away enough quality food to feed a couple of hundred orphans – and the contact details of farmers willing to donate tonnes more in the future. Tristram also organised a meeting in Parliament between MP Jaime Delgado and Managing Director of the Peru Food Bank to discuss support for the food bank’s campaign to change the tax regime around donations to stop the perverse incentive to destroy that exists at the moment.

A massive thank you to Jean Tromme and Alejandra Baruch, the organisers of the Mistura & Qaray food festival, who first invited Tristram to Peru – thus making possible a trip that became much more than just giving a talk.

Read the National Geographic article here.