The Food Tank Summit is always an exciting time of the year for us. Determined food system leaders from around the world shed light on various important food industry topics and new innovative solutions for combatting “wicked” food problems. This year’s focus is on food waste-- something we are very passionate about eliminating at BlueCart. We believe the big conversation on food should be one that is regularly had among all people participating in life. After all, everyone eats. That is why we are very grateful to the Food Tank organization for taking an initiative to make inside information to the sustainable future of food and the way the world eats more accessible to urban dwellers.
It is no secret city people are the biggest food wasters when speaking in terms of volume. In the past decade, several initiatives have blossomed into existence that aim to serve surplus foods from food businesses to the homeless populations in cities. Many civilians have been also advocating for the normalization of composting in apartment buildings, offices, and restaurants. All of these efforts have generally resulted in positive outcomes - a reduction in the amount of food wasted in highly populated cities. However, millions of tonnes of food still end up in landfill or other wastage conditions (1.3 billion according to the FAO) because of several complex measures: lack of effective transportation for food, “ugly produce”, and oversupply in restaurants are just to name a few. Unfortunately food waste is still rampant especially in lower-income neighborhoods of cities where composting services and food waste education is not prioritized due to other structural social issues. Although this reality is a very sad one, it’s important to recognize the leaders who really care about making a lasting impact on this phenomenon that will be discussed at the Food Tank summit! Here are some things we will be looking out for at the Food Waste Summit in New York City this week.
1. More urban agriculture initiatives
If you are a food documentary fiend like I am, make sure you watch Farmadeggon. Even though I majored in sustainable agriculture and felt like I had a good understanding of many of the major holes and flukes of the food system in North America, this documentary was very eye-opening on the topic of existing food policy that prevents consumers from ever accessing small-scale food production products. Because of urban sprawl in many of North America’s metropolitan cities, hobby farmers have been incorporating their passions into their city lifestyles. Whether people want to participate in the farming or not, they can be of contribution to these small ecosystems via compost, buying directly from these producers, or even just letting local policy makers know how much you support local small scale farm initiatives in your city. We are looking forward to hearing about the newest initiatives in this sector, especially those that utilize technology!
2. Not all Food Waste is equal - Solutions for the waste of animal by-product and awareness of its detriment to the environment.
It’s time we stopped using the generic term ‘Food Waste’ to describe the problem at hand. Like all systematic food-related issues, food waste is complex. There are different resources involved in the transportation and cultivation of different food products. Some food products must be refrigerated for transportation, others not. Meat wastage should account for x times more harm than the excess beans and rice you could not finish - the meat is an outcome of several other kilos of grain, water, and petrol (to ship an entire animal-- bones and other components of its carcass which most North Americans do not consume). There are too many factors to consider to just place all types of Food Waste onto the same plate. Different foods have different environmental consequences and consumers should be made aware to increase overall food mindfulness. This is a challenging awareness to deliver so we are excited to see what sorts of initiatives have tried implementing strategies to make the hospitality industry, especially, more conscious of wasting animal by-products. My personal hope is to see leaders push for the consumption of more less-desired animal by-products since that is usually what ends up in landfill or compost and that is a tremendous waste of nutritional value.
3. The way we eat seafood has to change.
The first step to making people more conscious about their every-day food decisions is to inform them about how it affects their health. Red meat demand has been on the decline for a while in the US however, I will not forget how all of a sudden my not-so-enthusiastic-about-all-things-related-to-food Facebook friends were sharing the WHO study from 2015 which suggested red meat is carcinogenic. Two years later, many of those people have adapted long-term healthier eating habits. Like all new shocking situations or news, people tend to respond emotionally then decide whether to take the information and lead a new lifestyle or ignore it altogether and continue on the trajectory they were on before. Since sushi has become a highly palatable food for Westerners since the 90s, it might be hard for people to accept their favorite types of fish are no longer healthy for them to consume due to negative implications of overfishing, nuclear waste, and irresponsible saltwater aquaculture practices for human consumption and the marine environment. Perhaps it is time to make sushi a special occasion meal again, as it is in Japan. Or we could start eating more than just tuna, salmon, and whitefish by having guidelines similar to the “Sushi Card” provided by the Canadian organization SeaChoice in efforts to protect Canadian waters.
There is so much to be done to make the way humans live life “sustainable”, we have not even skimmed the tip of the massive iceberg that is to come. All the more reasons to start now, and pay attention to what the leaders at Food Tank have to say! Even if you do not love to participate in the food world because you are an “Eat to survive” type of person, etc., your participation is necessary to pave out the future for future generations so they can inherit a better Earth.