Love Food Hate Waste Part 2 – A Cold Wind Blowing

By - Wednesday 13th February, 2013

In the second part to her spotlight on the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, ‘A Cold Wind Blowing’, Liz Sheppard-Jones explains what impact the recession has had on efforts to curb needless waste, what the role of businesses is in all of this, and what Croydonians can do to get involved

Purley Oaks recycling centre – Copyright Dr Neil Clifton, licenced under Creative Commons

A cold wind blowing

A socio-economic elephant squats dead-centre in the room when it comes to encouraging behavioural change, and this raises what is perhaps the most difficult issue of all. Campaigns of any kind – healthy eating, exercise, health screening, positive parenting, sustainable-sourcing, and the rest – are spearheaded by the most well-meaning and well-motivated groups in society. These are people who want to see positive changes: less carbon in the atmosphere, reduced levels of disease, preservation of the planet’s resources, and any other good and worthy end you care to name. They are the good guys – no question about it.

They then earnestly explain to those who lead more problematic and less well-resourced lives than their own exactly how they should behave to achieve this – which is where it can sometimes go wrong. Surprise – the message is not always well-received and therefore isn’t that effective.

Joanna Dixon addresses the point frankly. She is aware it contains truth, but in the case of Love Food Hate Waste she argues that the picture has changed.  Recession has bitten hard, and it is not just those in lower income groups who are now feeling the pinch. In contrast to past campaigns bearing environmentally-conscious, ‘save the planet’-style messages, Love Food Hate Waste is about how to save money.

Job insecurity and steep rises in the cost of living have given this message a direct relevance to the lives of more people, and different people, than might previously have been the case. The very economic difficulties we face present us with a positive opportunity.

This is coming dangerously close to a Pollyanna-ish embrace of austerity  – see, it’s good for us, because it will force us to save money! – offensive, frankly, given the levels of hardship now being experienced by so many. But it is striking just how middle-income the Love Food Hate Waste appeal looks and sounds.  A fine example of this is the current television campaign around how to extend a family Sunday roast (that icon of the bourgeoisie) into one or more weekday meals. Amongst its target audience are to be found more internet chatterers and opinion-formers than might once have been the case, and this gives the campaign great potential.

Love Food Hate Waste seeks to generate a feeling of austerity-chic – that one should be tight and proud of it. That’s not new to anyone who read Cosmopolitan magazine in the ’70s and took their fashion tips from the wonderful ‘More Dash Than Cash’ section (surely a title never bettered?). But after the loadsamoney years, a re-learning process is required and the lessons are more urgent than ever.

Love Food Hate Waste, excellent as it is, therefore represents a way of thinking which could be applied in other areas. Love Warmth Hate Waste? Love Fashion Hate Exploitation? Love Coffee Hate Tax Dodgers? The list goes on…

The role of business

Local environmental activists, such as Grace Onions from Croydon Friends of the Earth, are delighted by the results Croydon has achieved and are supportive of the Council’s continuing action. There is always more to do and Grace Onions voices concerns in particular about the role of businesses large and small in combating food waste.

Now that Croydon has a well-established and growing Restaurant Quarter in South End, Friends of the Earth would like to see resources go into helping small food businesses establish good practice to reduce waste. The same challenges face a small business owner as face a householder – time pressures, limited resources – but at present support is not given since businesses exist to make profits and cannot take money from the public purse.

Joanna Dixon and Grace Onions clearly share the same goals and a wish to act together. What emerges from their discussions is the need for joined-up thinking: if there is a society-wide wish to reduce waste, and if the economic benefits of so doing can be demonstrated, policymakers must consider how businesses can be incentivised to behave in more socially and environmentally beneficial ways.

Given the changes just down the road in Croydon, with the Town Centre’s regeneration plans and the certainty that many new cafes and restaurants will be included within it, the need for fresh thinking is clear. Let us hope that what has already been achieved here will act as a spur to further action.

Get involved

In the meantime – there’s lots going on in Croydon Town Centre to support Love Food Hate Waste. Interested in getting involved? Come down to Surrey Street market on Thursday February 14th where you will find a range of activities including:

  • the demo kitchen – chefs will be on hand to demonstrate a range of recipes which can be made with leftovers and to hand out tips and advice
  • food sampling (naturally)
  • a range of fun activities and competitions with foodie prizes
  • the chance to make your own food waste reduction pledge and collect a reward
  • romantic music for Valentine’s Day (you have been warned)

Croydon is cutting its food waste and can do still better. February 14th is a chance for people to work together to make changes. Love Food Hate Waste can help each of us where it matters most – in our pockets – and gives us a chance to brighten the bigger picture.

Which brings us back to announcements of good news. Wasn’t there some other Croydon story in the headlines? Something to do with shopping centres? Now what was THAT about?

Can’t wait until Valentine’s Day? Visit Love Food Hate Waste’s campaign website NOW to learn more!

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • Kake

    Thank you for this — it’s really important to remember that not everyone has the same level of resources. Some people are already struggling to get food on the table, whether this is due to poverty, disability, overload, or many other reasons.

    It does seem a bit patronising to admonish people simultaneously with “eat lots of vegetables and always cook fresh!” on the one hand and “don’t waste food” on the other. In some cases, the most feasible and affordable way to avoid wasting food is to serve pre-prepared things like burgers and oven chips that come in standard portions, that don’t go off unexpectedly, and that you know your family will find acceptable. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    (Indeed, one of the ways I personally avoid food waste is by not buying fresh fruit.)

  • Christian Wilcox

    I’m sorry to be so blunt Kake but that’s just daft.

    Run a decent size freezer and you can easily handle portion sizes and also minimise wastage.

    And Pie & Chips if baked is easy, healthy, and is great with a side salad or beans.

    • Kake

      I’m glad that works well for you, and I’m glad you have room in your home for a decent size freezer and the money to pay for the electricity to run it. Unfortunately, as I said, not everyone has the same level of resources.

      I think what you’re saying about pie and chips is roughly the same as what I’m saying about burgers and chips. My point is that there’s a lot of pressure to not eat like this.

  • Liz Sheppard-Jones

    The logistics of who has a freezer etc is relevant to the discussion yet also misses the point. It’s not difficult to plan healthy economical meals or to minimise waste, actually – but those who do so have certain attributes in common. Real poverty and deprivation tend to have rather different attributes.

    The food debate is about how far we can or should expect people to take responsibility for themselves no matter what their circumstances, or how far we should recognise the psychological and emotional effects of disadvantage – depression, low motivation, lack of belief in a positive future – which make certain choices difficult, or plain impossible, for some groups. If our view is that it is hard for some people to behave in certain ways, how should we help them to do so?

    • Kake

      One fruitful approach might be to adopt the social justice concept of “nothing about us without us”. Get some people on board from the groups you’re concerned about reaching. Ask them what they think. Listen to them.

      This may sound simple, but it’s so often overlooked, or only paid lip service to.