Our first collaborative event, a panel discussion on food waste with Rhea Solutions, was held successfully on October 26th. This discussion was part of the program of Development Cooperation Week of University of Helsinki.
According to the Natural Resources Institute Finland (MTT), about 400 million kilos of food are wasted in the food production chain annually in Finland. How much and heavy is this? Too many zeroes to imagine?
In order to raise public awareness of this matter, we invited guests from different industries to talk about the situation. We were honoured to have well-known Chef Sami Garamin, green politician Sirpa Hertellin from the City of Espoo, representative of Shared Table (Yhteisen pöydän) Hanna Kuisma, Planning Manager of S-Group Mika Lyytikäinen and Research Scientist Kirsi Silvennoinen as our panellists. Sini Suomalainen from Rhea Solutions was the moderator on the day.
On the present food waste phenomenon
Our guests participated actively in the discussion. Silvennoinen provided concrete data of the ongoing problem in Finland, which acted as a foundation for the whole panel discussion. All other speakers were well-aware of the situation and expressed their opinions enthusiastically.
Lyytikäinen, despite his high-ranked position, often shops for expiring discounted products from supermarkets. He does not see buying 30% off products embarrassing at all, and in fact welcomes it. Moreover, he pointed out that shopping local produce is one step towards reducing food waste. Perishables goods decay easily during transport.
Food expiration labels that are used for protecting our well-being can sometimes be obstacles. Shared Table is a warehouse which collects edible goods from shops then provides storage and delivery services to the needy. Kusima remarked the strict application of used-by labels renders food waste. If there is a large time lapse between delivery from shops and to other organisations, products with use-by labels may have to be thrown away.
Instead of examining food by date numbers, Garam voiced the importance of using our five senses, which eventually leads to food appreciation. Besides having numerous ideas for transforming ‘old’ food, he was also keen on food-saving ideas taking place in other European countries. For instance, fridge sharing in a community so that one individual’s uneaten food can be another person’s dinner.
There is a flip side of the generous act of offering buffet lunch at schools and other public institutions. Due to the difficulty of estimating people’s appetite, there is always a surplus of food produced. In other words, leftovers go straight to the bin. Hertell sees the potential of selling leftovers as affordable products. Yet, public regulations hinder the food saving process.
Social responsibility is the key
We all have heard of this food waste problem before, but 2015 is the action year. France bans supermarket food waste by law. Denmark has reduced food waste 25% in 5 years, and takes initiative to reduce 25% of their food waste nationwide by 2020. The United States set their first food waste reduction goal, aiming to cut food waste 50% by 2030. How about Finland? Someone queues for free bread for hours and some throw it away. In order to make Finland more environmental-friendly and cost-efficient, more attention on handling the food waste problem is needed from officials.
Although there are flaws in the Finnish public system, we should not solely rely on the government to reduce food waste. Everyone in society has responsibility to treat food in a better manner. Remember one third of the food waste is contributed by households? Start something small like checking your fridge before grocery shopping. Everybody’s action matters.
It’s time to be creative and mindful with food. Be Froodly (food + friendly).