Anyone who has stepped into the food industry, can tell you that leftover or expired food is still a very messy business at the end of shift. Truckloads of food are transported daily to supermarkets and shops, from farmers and companies that put a lot of energy and time in crafting a product to be sold. Inevitably people leave uneaten food, or there is simply a surplus of unsold product. Whatever the reason is, it is a global issue, costing Canada $31 billion each year. I remember having to dispose countless amounts of expired meats and dairy products straight into the trash, where they were then going to landfills and degenerate back into the earth for no good reason. What horrified me was that so much time, effort, and environmental output went into creating a product that was then left to rot. In Italy it is estimated that food decomposition emits as much as 4 million tonnes of CO2 each year. However, many places dotted across western society has finally taken full responsibility over the enormous amounts of food waste that restaurants and grocery stores generate. In fact, France outlawed supermarkets to waste any food, with Italy placing an tax reduction for restaurant owners who decide to donate their leftovers.
One example however proved that not only can food be given to those in need through collaborative action, but that communities across our world still live in a net of trust that keeps them connected and supportive through tough times. An Indian restaurant owner, Minu Pauline, located in the city of Kochi, struggled to witness the homeless picking through garbage just outside of her establishment. She got the idea to install a fridge steps outside of the restaurant that is to be stocked with leftover meals to give freely to the public. Over 200 meals a day now get placed into this fridge to feed the hungry, but it isn’t only her that has now been placing food into the fridge. In fact customers and the larger community have taken advantage of this opportunity, and has been stocking their own leftovers as well. This takes tremendous levels of trust and respect for both the receivers and the givers in this situation. Being able to accept someone else’s unfinished plate takes levels of humility and confidence in their fellow peers. It is truly an accomplishment for both Minu, and the hungry who have admirably stepped forward.
Even though this story is a courageous one that leaves me with joy, I had feared that this model of addressing our western food crisis would be non-adaptable. I did not believe that westerners on the receiving end, could give forth the amount of trust and faith needed to accept food from strangers on the street. Taking someone else’s leftovers can be perceived as lowly in a society that often pities the poor. I even remember hearing stories at a young age from relatives that the homeless on the streets of Toronto had often rejected sandwiches. However I was proven wrong in such an inspiring way with a London England project named “The peoples Fridge.” Ben Longman, Co-founder of the start-up, had launched a crowdfunded page to get fridges set up all across Brixton. It allows for restaurant owners and the general public to support the community of those who wish to eat spared food without any costs attached. In fact some companies have excess food that can’t be sold on daily basis, which is why this fridge is so vital at allowing the growth of our food not to be wasted. Supermarkets now notify the public that they are dropping off a surplus of healthy food to the fridge through twitter. This defied my assumptions on our societal limits concerning food waste solutions. I know believe that we don’t give ourselves enough credit in the trust we place in each other that exists. Collaborative action worked, and we have leapt bounds with these amazing projects that will continue to grow in the future. When faced with an environmental solution, we should not limit ourselves based on our critical assumptions of what we are socially capable of, for we can not only help solve a pressing environmental issue, but make a powerful difference connecting each other.