There have been several alarming stories concerning food shortages in recent years, most notably the ‘2008 food price crisis’ that led to unrest in several countries while a lack of food in the third world is an intrinsic and ongoing problem. In this context any major food wastage is justifiably alarming . It is perhaps the rise of food banks in this country due to the financial situation of many families in this country that makes the news of 30.000 tonnes wasted by Tesco hit home however – especially since this is more than likely to be matched by similar but unpublished figures at other major supermarkets.
Despite this it is important that we don’t forget the global context. As recently as September 2013 a UN report found that uneaten food occupies 1.4 billion hectares of land – about 30 percent of the earth’s agricultural land area. According to the FAO high-income regions and Latin America are together responsible for around 80 percent of meat wastage, while Asia ranks highly in wastage of cereals and vegetables. When food is an essential resource the problem of wastage is therefore not constricted to a fixed set of countries, it is fundamentally a global issue. And so, among the images of destruction wrought by the ongoing Syrian conflict a lack of food for refugees is inevitably a lesser but no less lethal issue. In Lebanon, one of the many neighbouring Syrian countries struggling with the number of refugees across the border the UN has been forced to reduce food aid to prioritize limited resources while the Red Cross has stated ‘Syrian refugees lack food, water to survive each and every day.’
Is wastage in this country the result of how food, within a capitalist system is in certain contexts an expendable product where the wider issue of its existence as a shared resource is largely a non-issue. Like we clamour to buy the shiniest and sleekest version of various gadgets does it seems the pleasing image of food find in, for example advertising persuades us to ignore less aesthetic but perfectly and nutritious fruit and vegetables. Now, I am not going to lie and state I am a prefect human being who has not been guilty of this mindset on occasions. Yet, as a university student, however, I was to degree forced to buy what must have been more than a tone of Tesco value peppers; cheap and not as flashy but as I soon learned, no less tasty as the more expensive middle or finest ranges.
It is idealistic then, perhaps, but in a wealthy country we should not be driven to desperation to overcome this attitude.