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Cooking up a solution to food waste

Posted on Monday, June 10th, 2013

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day was ‘Think-Eat-Save’ and its aim was to draw attention to the impact of food waste – particularly from an environmental perspective.

Food waste is a huge challenge which will not be easily solved. The UN estimates that UK households waste around 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, which equates to 32% of all food purchased[1]. They go on to say that approximately 61% of this is avoidable waste which results from food that is not used and thrown away.

Avoidable waste is something we can tackle on a small scale in our own homes but there is also a role that businesses can play in educating consumers. Learning to shop carefully, plan interesting meals, and re-use leftovers are all useful skills which can reduce waste and save money.

Sometimes reducing waste can be a by-product of a company’s initiative. In 2011, Morrisons conducted some research which showed that the average UK household’s weekly shop is around 11 per cent of their outgoings[2], and that many families spend considerably more. When they launched M Savers, their new value range, in January 2012, they decided to take action to help families learn to make healthy, enjoyable meals on a budget using M Savers ingredients.

Working with 3 Monkeys Communications and National Schools Partnership Morrisons launched M Savers Cook-Along Sessions. These events featured Morrisons chefs teaching parents new recipes that were possible within a tight budget and would appeal to their families. M Savers Cook-Along Sessions were held in schools around the country.

Alongside the recipes, participating parents were given useful budgeting and shopping tips. These tips were shared with the wider community through films and downloadable resources.

The Morrisons example shows that there is a useful and commercially-rewarding role for external organisations in helping families develop the skills to improve cooking and budgeting and in doing so reducing food waste – careful shopping and planning combined with easy, tasty recipes can really help families to throw less food away.

Whilst plans to make cookery compulsory in the revised UK’s national curriculum are currently in a state of flux, it remains an optional area for schools at primary and secondary levels. The curriculum frameworks of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all offer valuable opportunities for pupils to study cookery at all key stages.

Businesses could use this opportunity to help children and their families understand and enjoy cooking whilst reducing waste. Away from cookery, small-scale initiatives like installing compost bins, or simply providing schools with resources that explain the issues that surround food waste can all help tackle this serious problem whilst building relationships between businesses and the education sector.

By Kate Briggs, Sales & Marketing Manager

[1] http://www.unep.org/wed/quickfacts/

[2] Research analysis was conducted for Morrisons by John Glen, Senior Lecturer in Economics at Cranfield School of Management. Households’ incomes and weekly expenditure on food and non alcoholic drinks as a proportion of total weekly expenditure sourced from the Family Spending survey 2011 (ONS) 

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