New research has revealed that at Halloween 15 million pumpkins are carved by UK households and not eaten - enough to make a bowl of pumpkin soup for everyone in the country. Over half the 2,000 people surveyed said they didn't think of a Halloween pumpkin as food and one in three mistakenly thought that a carving pumpkin could not be eaten.
UK homes waste 7 million tonnes of food every year peaking during periods of celebration such as Christmas, Easter and Halloween. Nobody wants to be a killjoy at these times but they offer a perfect opportunity to get people to change habits and try something new.
#PumpkinRescue has been developed by the charity Hubbub to persuade UK households to crave their carvings by eating pumpkins at Halloween rather than chucking them in the bin. The campaign started in 2014 with community food groups in Oxford creating a local festival celebrating all things pumpkin.
The Oxford festival included making hot soup from pumpkins and other food that would have been wasted. The soup was freely distributed to hungry shoppers on a busy Saturday with over 1,673 bowls served and 1,325 pumpkins saved.
To maximise the impact of the Oxford festival, pumpkin recipes were collected from celebrity chefs and made freely available on-line. A media campaign highlighting that 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin are dumped each year secured national coverage including a bemused article in the United States wondering why the British hadn't embraced the concept of eating pumpkins as well as carving them.
A 'How to run a #PumpkinRescue' guide was developed along with a supporting video and made available for any organisations interested in running their own festivals. Hubbub had no idea whether this would generate any response so were delighted when during Halloween 2015 Pumpkin Rescue was taken on by 23 UK towns and even crossed to the USA. These campaigns stopped 25 tonnes of pumpkin being dumped. 73 local events were attended by 3,100 people and over 70 million people were reached with the 'eat your pumpkin' message
2015 demonstrated there was a genuine desire amongst UK households to test new recipes using pumpkins. Could this desire be translated into a new ritual at Halloween squashing food waste and increasing cooking skills?
This is the challenge that Hubbub is exploring this year in partnership with Unilever who are promoting the #PumpkinRescue message through their Knorr stock brand. With their support over 40 community festivals will run throughout the country. A radio day with Celebrity Masterchef champion Lisa Faulkner will take the message out to local radio stations and a social media campaign will share pumpkin recipes and the wider food waste message.
There will be much to learn from the campaign and in particular how the involvement of a major corporate brand can help take food waste messages from a series of community events to a mainstream audience. If this approach is successful there is no reason why it couldn't be extended to other times of peak food waste such as Christmas and Easter.