Fussy consumers and the food waste fight

Anthony James, leader of The Rescope Project, believes, to reduce the surplus of wasted food the community must change its ideals of how produce should look. Fitzroy is set to receive an education on food wastage when The Rescope Project comes to town tomorrow, July 19to encourage sustainability for a brighter future.

There’s no denying the Yarra community is an eco-friendly bunch, already having done much to combat food waste through council initiatives such as Food Know How.

“We work with residents and households to avoid creating food waste in the first place,” explains Food Know How project manager Matthew Nelson.

Are we being too shallow in our food choices? Photo: Michael Moloserdoff

While community initiatives encouraged by Food Know How such as food swaps and community gardens, along with measures taken by residents within the home have gone a long way to reduce the surplus of wasted food, are our attitudes about how our food should look holding us back from winning the food waste fight for good?

It has long been a trend of supermarkets to toss fruits and vegetables deemed visually unappealing in order to meet consumers’ aesthetic expectations.

The Rescope Project leader Mr James said: “It’s interesting that we seek that idea of perfection in the first place … we get lost in the details of perfection as opposed to what counts in life; good healthy food from a healthy ecosystem. Whether an apple’s got a little lump on it is by-the-by; in fact it becomes a quality test of the real kind because you’ve got it closer to [its] source.”

Fitzroy is a popular location for dumpster divers Photo: Alice WIlson

Mr James isn’t the only one holding this opinion. Skip-dipping, dumpster diving, whatever you may call it; the growing trend of ‘freegan’ living is becoming a popular choice for those fed up with the amount of food wasted due to the community’s search for picture-perfect fruit and veg.

“A large portion of society has grown up with ridiculous regulations on how our food should look. Banana too straight? Throw it out. Apple has a spot on it? Throw it out.”

Ricardo Potoroo, began dumpster diving after becoming aware of food waste caused by food sellers. He wants more pressure placed on supermarkets to dispose of excess food more responsibly.

“Councils have an ethical duty to put more pressure on supermarkets and wholesalers to donate their excess produce back to the community,” he said.

Fellow ‘diver’ Gabrielle Paz-Liebman agrees. “Councils need to work harder to create some very strong laws around food waste, but not in ways that keep the power within supermarkets.”

While it’s true that supermarkets fuel our high standards, and should be doing more to ensure what is discarded is done so in a more responsible manner, is it down to only them and councils to shoulder the blame?

Anthony James says no: “Local councils are responsible for mediating and encouraging the community to get more informed on these issues… Where does responsibility lie in general? It’s across the board,” he said.

This view is also held by Bree Fomenko of Food Without Borders, an upcoming food rescue program orchestrated by Lentil as Anything, the pay-as-you-feel vegan haunt operating out of several locations across Melbourne, including the Yarra’s own Abbotsford.

“Broadly speaking, food retailers can implement actions to reduce the amount of food wasted. However, responsibility must also be shared by consumers in the choices made when purchasing and disposing of food items.

“As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to aesthetically perfect products and beautifully-designed packaging.

“For example, perfectly smooth, red tomatoes are often favoured over ones with a few blemishes, but the nutritional content and taste-factor may be the same.”

Once up and running, Food Without Borders hopes to work with food retailers to repurpose unwanted food, minimising waste and helping those in need, along with raising awareness of the implications of food waste and encouraging positive actions to reduce waste among the community.

Ventures such as Lentil’s Food Without Borders is a step in the right direction to further reduce waste in the Yarra community, and if locals can lower their standards while shopping, a sustainable future becomes much more obtainable.

The Rescope Project is on at the Bargoonga Nganjin North Fitzroy Library, 182/186 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North, Wednesday, July 19 from 6pm-7pm.

To register for The Rescope Project’s free event, visit the Yarra City Council’s What’s On for further details.

Written by Alice Wilson

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