We can feed landfills. Or we can feed people. Let's choose sides.
It has sort of become a truism in environmental circles: We could feed the world with what we grow now, if only we didn't throw so much away. And while the statement is undeniable—Britain alone wastes $20bn a year—I used to have a hard time imagining how this could change. After all, food waste is so pernicious, widespread and distributed, no single initiative can make a real dent in the problem.
But I guess that misses the point. Given that food is wasted at every point between the farm and the consumer, there are opportunities at every level of the supply chain to make a real difference. Over in the UK, food waste appears to have become a cause of the moment. From a supermarket helping consumers to use their leftovers, to an innovative company making beer from old bread, there are many promising signs that this moral outrage is finally being taken seriously.
The latest example that attitudes are shifting, reported on over at the Independent, comes from the government itself. Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced—on Boxing Day no less—that Britain was launching a £500,000 fund to redirect food waste from retailers, and use it instead to feed the homeless and food insecure families across the United Kingdom.
Besides the obvious fact that this is the right thing to do, I think the headlines for this initiative reveal another important truth: a few resources can go a long way on this particular issue. After all, £500,000 (US$669,600) is not a lot of money when it comes to government funding. Nevertheless, advocates—including charities working on food waste—believe that the new Food Waste Reduction fund could result in a four-fold increase in how much waste is diverted to feeding those in need.
Given the fact that, according to Project Drawdown, food waste reduction ranks third among all potential solutions to climate change, in terms of potential impact, this seems like an awfully good investment.
Let's hope it's a sign of even bigger things to come.