Małgorzata Piechowicz-Pietruszka -
It is incredible how well 2020 has managed to expose so many of our human shortcomings on practically every possible dimension. And it is not even over yet.
One of them is food security and nations’ dependency on global markets and food supplies. Many of us, brought up in fairly prosperous times, have finally realised that food cannot be taken for granted. Suddenly, food security has become a topic discussed not only at a governmental level but at a family table.
Isn’t it alarming that we waste one third of food produced globally? That means 1.3 billion tonnes of food ending up in landfill, which is literally over a half a kilo per world inhabitant every single day, while millions of people worldwide suffer from hunger and even more millions are undernourished.
What a terrible paradox! In countries with higher industrialisation and income food loss and waste increase to 40 or shocking 50 per cent at the consumption stage.
As these estimates are pre-Covid it is feared that they will be pushed even higher due to the necessary time that food companies need for their portfolio to adjust to the changes in demand and supply. It is all very disturbing, to say the least.
Obviously food waste happens at every stage across the chain, from farmers to retailers and eventually consumers. So is there anything we can do as ordinary people to change the current situation?
There are plenty of good and proven ideas to reduce food waste at the last consumer stage which practically happens at our homes. Meal planning, sharing any surplus of food we know we won’t be able to eat or simply donating is just a few from the list.
However, I personally believe that educating ourselves may bring the biggest, most profound and long lasting effects. And we should start with children. Teaching them that food doesn’t simply happen by magic but requires a lot of effort and is time and energy consuming should be the first step. And because children learn best by example, why not showing them the local farms, fields and apiaries? While shopping for fruit and vegetables they should be able to differentiate between the local and imported produce.
Then, we may encourage them to try and grow their own plants, either in pots or, if we are lucky enough, in our own garden. Children love such kinds of activities. They instantly connect with nature and learn its cycles and laws. They are naturally curious and very observant.
I have noticed myself that when my kids planted their first tomato seeds and realised how long the process takes to have the actual fruit in their hand a new level of respect and awe of nature opened up for them. More importantly, it is very hard to lightheartedly discard something that you grew yourself. Try baking your own bread and then throwing even a tiny piece to a bin, no matter how stale it is. You just don’t do it. And that is the whole point.
I am convinced that teaching children the rudimentary skills of food growing and cooking is a must in our uncertain times. Actually it should always be a priority, no matter how good or bad the times are. Obviously it will not significantly affect global food security but perhaps it is the best way to instil respect towards food and nature in our childrens’ hearts and minds. As for adults, it may forever teach us to appreciate how precious and valuable food is and that we will be held accountable for the state of our planet and humanity that we will pass on to future generations.