Friday, 7 October 2011

Slow Food: buy less, spend more, don't waste!

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

My family and I recently went to an event organized by Slow Food, the Italian non-profit organization well-known internationally for its commitment to local food traditions and communities, and its mission to promote food that's good (fresh and seasonal), clean (safe for our health and the evironment), and fair (fairly priced for both the consumers and the small-scale producers).  (You can read more about Slow Food philosophy here.)  It was a Cheese festival, and I wrote about it on FuoriBorgo here and here.

Carlo Petrini, the charismatic founder of Slow Food, held a press conference, where he discussed many interesting issues about the economics and ethics of food, including:

-    22,000 tons of edible food are thrown away every day in American households, and 4,000 tons in Italy.

-    Consumers spend 20% less on groceries than they did 30 years ago.

-    By buying cheaper food, consumers give their money to industrial food concerns, rather than to small-scale, sustainable producers of quality food.

We live in a time of colossal over-production and waste.  In fact, according to a study prepared by the FAO in 2011 ("Global Food Losses and Waste"), roughly one third of the food produced for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - gets lost or wasted.  According to Carlo Petrini, the results of this runaway waste coupled with the widespread industrialization of the food supply, are far-reaching and severe:  the soil is being impoverished and depleted, water is becoming scarce, bio-diversity is being lost, and small farmers are having a harder and harder time making a living.

Petrini calls for a new paradigm.  He says we need to stop wasting food, buy less food overall, and spend proportionately more on the food we do buy - on high-quality food that's safe, healthy and priced to give the farmer a fair income.

This press conference was a real eye-opener for me in many ways, and a call to action.  I found the level of food waste deeply disturbing.  Yet what Carlo Petrini said about spending more, made perfect sense.  We need better, fairer food in our homes, and less of it.  And we need to stop wasting food.  All these steps go together - I'll be writing more about this.


Sense of Home Kitchen said...

I would have loved to have heard him speak. The amount of food wasted is appalling.


flowtops said...

I've seen those numbers before, I believe it was addressed in a few TED talks.

Personally, I've never been much good at wasting food - almost all the groceries we buy are put to use.

Still, it is hard to find honest food with a decent price tag on it. Though we are willing to spend a little extra on certain products, we simply cannot afford to buy organic all the time.

Also, it is very hard to get the proper information on foods and beverages bought in supermarkets. Ingredients are not always clear, and even if we steer away from convenience food (which we do), there are a lot of challenges and ridiculous choices previous generations simply never were faced with.

Looking forward to your next post on this subject!


Joyce said...

It bothers me to know how much our food is wasted in the US, knowing there are so many people going to bed hungry. Since watching the documentary, called Food Inc I started to come aware of what I buy and eat. The price of food where I live is outrages in cost. Maybe if all of us start in our corners reach to the middle we can come together and find the right balance to not waste, and feed the hungry. Good article my friend! xo

Elizabeth said...

It's good to put this information out here. We all know it but need to be reminded. I have found since living rurally (and working in a food shop that utilizes local food) I have met the farmers directly, seen what it takes to get to their goods to market and how they all work together to help each other. If we need something for cooking at work, green onions for example and our usual (farm) supplier is short they will call around to other farms to find it for us. If there is extra produce from one farm, another farmer will take it to market so it doesn't get wasted.

Tallulah said...

I fully agree, even though I'm guilty of throwing some food away myself due to lack of meal planning or ambitious buying (i.e. I intend to make something but don't get around to it in time).
Something else that bothers me greatly in terms of waste is the amount of organic waste we produce, which could be composted but gets thrown in the general trash because there is no separate collection (as is the case for example in Northern Italy where my parents live) and we do not have a garden (I do have a trash-can composter on our balcony, but it gets filled up way too fast).
We already separate glass, paper, plastic, and tins, and if we added organic waste to the recycling, I believe we'd cut down our household's waste production to about 10-20% of what it currently is.

Michelle said...

I cannot spend more money on food (you can only spend what you have ^^), but I go shopping almost every day, because I only buy what I will eat on that day. So I have almost nothing at home (not good for unexpected guests). This way I eat everything and don't thow stuff out. Okay, sometimes it happens. But overall I think, my concept is okay. :-) I don't like all the wasting of food.

un arc-en-ciel dans le lavabo said...

this was one of the reasons i started not eating meat anymore twenty years ago.
at that time it was highly controversial, it still is a bit, but i couldn't stand the waste of meat raised in quantity not quality, and that would go to waste anyway (schools, supermarkets, restaurants etc) when it costs so much to the Earth to mass produce meat.
also, in France, when you shop at organic/health stores, like we do, food is more expensive than junk and i believe that it may be a good thing sometimes because it teaches people not to waste, it teaches people what they have forgotten about food, and where it originally comes from.
in our household we cut/save on other things like clothes, hobbies, electronics, but never on (quality) food -- even if we eat 60% organic only but never the super processed stuff (simple food/ basic supplies are cheaper anyway - just that people have to accept to spend more time cooking/baking) .
and of course, local & seasonal (when possible) are words to keep in mind.
thank you for sharing this.

renee @ FIMBY said...

I agree good food costs. Either your time or your money.

Hilde said...

Did you watch the film "Taste the waste"? The wasting already starts on the farms, where a great amount of food is left in the field because the supermarkets will not buy it (e.g. 40 % of the potatoes, which are too small, too big or formed irregularly). And it continues all through the supply chain until perfectly good yoghurt etc is thrown away unopened just because the "best fefore" date has passed.

Barbara said...

I agree, Francesca. Food waste is a crime. You were fortunate to hear him speak.

(BTW: I loved the adorable vest in your last post!)

Nicola said...

I agree whole heartedly about the need for change. Having grown up in a very progressive, "green" before-its-time, foodie city, I feel lucky to have had a head start, yet I am still learning. Great topic, Francesca. (And I didn't know his name...Carlo is a great name. :) My dad's.)

anna said...

This is my life philosophy too, quality over quantity, better for nature, (at the end) better for our budget and also important better for our health.
I do still buy cheap products, just because I can't afford buying only bio-products yet, but at least nothing is wasted here, I feel it also makes me more creative and appreciate what I have on my plate more. It's great that you're discussing this subject!

denise said...

I would have loved to hear him speak. And such a great topic.

I think that when you take the time and money to make real food though, you don't want to throw it away. Meals cooked from scratch get less waste - and are saved for lunch the next day, or to make something else. Thoughtful=less waste!

Kristy Disch said...

As I was reading your post, it occured to me that it is way harder to throw away something you've labored over- even if it is less than your michelin star best than it is to toss out a ready-made package meal. Less is more!