By the time you have finished reading this article, over 12,000 tons of food will have been lost or wasted across the global supply chain.
It’s a staggering figure; the inanity made all the more jarring by the current climate: hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of jobs lost and people facing desperate situations the world over.
Yet, when you hold our food system up to the light, it’s clear to see how we got here.
Until a month ago, we had become completely accustomed to full supermarket shelves. We had abundantaccess to whatever food we liked, whenever we wanted it. We were conditioned convenience shoppers, mindlessly topping up our fridges without a second thought to what we already had in the house.
Who really considered the resources it took to produce food, where it came from, or who produced it for us? We bought avocados from Mexico and blueberries from New Zealand. We snapped up trays of strawberries in the middle of December.
Food became a commodity we no longer valued or respected – easy come, easy go.
Then coronavirus arrived.
The pandemic rocked the world, and with it, our attitudes toward food. Faced with empty supermarket shelves, shrunk product ranges and closed restaurants, the penny started to drop. Maybe not so “easy come” after all.
For many of us, it’s the first time we’ve prepared multiple meals a day, every day. For others, it’s the first time we’ve cooked from scratch at all. We’re becoming self-sufficient as we explore new cooking skills, and we’re seeing each meal’s potential for adding flavour and variation to days which can otherwise become a blur.
We’ve learnt valuable lessons with the realisation that the true value of food is far more than the mere cost
Surveys carried out on behalf of Too Good To Go show half of us are spending more time cooking from scratch, and 60% of Brits have tried new cooking techniques. We’re stepping into local stores rather than relying on big supermarkets, and the phrase “local, seasonal shopping” suddenly makes a whole lot more sense.
All these changes are making a difference.
Nine out of 10 adults report that they are more aware of how much food they are wasting, and over a third of consumers are throwing out less food compared to before the crisis struck. Piece by piece, our appreciation for food is returning.
This is good news, but we cannot be complacent. There’s a risk that as soon as we return to normality – whenever that may be – this newfound respect for food will fade in a merry-go-round of takeaways, dinner parties, and ready meals bought in the rush home from work. We must not let this happen.
We’ve learnt valuable lessons with the realisation that the true value of food is far more than the mere cost. It’s the natural resources taken to produce it, the distance it travelled to get to the shelf, the human labour invested. Food gives us joy, purpose, and unity in times of sadness, uncertainty, and isolation. It’s far too precious to throw away.
Food waste is senseless in a pandemic – but it doesn’t make sense at any other time either. Research Too Good To Go conducted last year showed that two thirds of Brits didn’t realise that food waste was a leading cause of climate change. With our renewed sense of the fragility of life and the finite nature of our resources, perhaps now more of us will see the links between our daily consumption habits and the future of our little planet. Let’s remember the lessons we’ve learned, and make our new habits stick. Our environment, our wallets, and future generations will thank us for it.
Hayley Conick is country manager for Too Good To Go in the UK – B2C app for surplus food.