As an environmental campaigner I try to live as sustainably as possible and put my beliefs into practice. Skipping for food is, for me, an integral part of being both true to my beliefs and leading a truly sustainable life.
In the UK, the world's sixth largest economy, it's a scandal that not everyone can afford food. Part of the reason food is so expensive is due to scandalous levels of food waste. Globally, as much as half of the food produced is discarded (while people in many countries starve). Estimates suggest as much as 15 million tonnes of food is wasted each year in the UK alone. Up to 40% of fruit and vegetable headed for supermarket shelves is ditched en route due to its appearance or the odd (harmless) bump and bruise.
As a society we need to re-use much more of our waste. Allowing so much waste to go straight to landfill, as is increasingly the norm, is storing up severe problems for the future, for my generation!
I'll make no bones about it - skipping for food is a dirty job. However, the tasty rewards make up for being covered in bin juice (the assorted slime that coats bin bags in supermarket bins).
Skipping gives you a perspective you wouldn't normally get from your average supermarket trip. The amount of perfectly edible and safe-to-eat food that is binned is simply staggering. In fact, there's such a large amount of the good stuff that we skippers can often afford to be fussy. We're never short of bread and cake, dine frequently on chocolate and yoghurt and, on a good day at the bins, find perfectly good meat. What becomes clear as soon as you skip is that no matter what individual chains claim - from Co-Op to Iceland, ASDA to Waitrose - the supermarket system we have today is astonishingly wasteful.
I'm involved in Grow Heathrow, a sustainable community project on the site of the proposed third runway at Heathrow, and we use skipping to complement the food that we grow on site. Skipping forms the lion's share of our daily diet in the winter and none of us would consider we eat badly, or too little. Whatever the Daily Mail might think, skipping is not about getting grub for free (although that's a bonus). Skipping is, for us, about using 'waste' and turning something negative into something positive - food for a community.
In this age of austerity some people are having to decide whether to eat or heat their homes. Meaning bigger queues for foodbanks than ever. Meanwhile, supermarkets continue to make billions of pounds in profit, paying out large bonuses, whilst wasting millions of tonnes of edible food. Against this backdrop, it's shocking that more people aren't skipping.
Food waste is a symptom of a food production system gone badly wrong; it's pricing the poor out of nutritious food whilst creating large amounts of waste. The fact that projects and households like Grow Heathrow up and down the country can not only survive but eat well from skipping serves to show just how wasteful the supermarket system is.
Skipping is not the problem. Locking supermarket bins away, pouring bleach over discarded food waste or prosecuting those that use skipping to survive is not the answer. Rather, government and multinational food companies need to ask why people skip. The politicians and boardroom bosses should be focussed on creating a system in which people do not need to skip anymore. The answers are obvious; affordable food, less waste and a living wage for all. It's time to treat the cause not the symptoms.