Joan Ruddock, Minister of the environment, like me, is shouting down a well and the only voice that replies is her own echo. She talks as if she had just discovered the wheel, when the rest of us have been aware and talking about the waste of our money by the food that we buy, rotting before it is fit to eat for at the least a couple of years. She is perturbed because, from a sample of over 2000 houses in England and Wales, they estimate that 3.6 million tonnes of food is wasted annually, 60% of which is untouched, and frankly there’s nothing she can do about it, because it has now become endemic.
Any shopper understands the logistics of shopping and the problems that face working families today. The car parks of the supermarkets on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays, bare evidence of the results of working full-time and responsible parenthood – one large shop per week. The shops don’t offer three for the price of two because they think you need three, on the contrary you will need only one but they wish to sell three. The consequences of having to guess the menus for a week are obvious but in today’s climate,, unavoidable. The Minister hasn’t a hope in hell of changing the system, it is ingrained, and our whole life structure is built round the supermarket. Everyone it seems including chefs are jumping on this food- waste bandwagon as if it was a new religion. A lot of us are sick to death of buying products because we look forward to the flavour of them but it was never realised because the product rotted before it ripened. We might of course still be able to learn something from the past, and give credence to the farm and corner shop.
One aspect that nobody seems to have taken into account is the plight of these people in underdeveloped countries who have been persuaded to set up manufacturing facilities to provide the supermarkets with all this out of season food. It’s all very well for a couple of chefs to scream at one another through the ether, and for politicians to make capital gain out of the waste situation, which didn’t start just yesterday. But before they start lambasting, they should take into account that it was we, the wealthy nations who, without long-term thought set the ball rolling, and now want to retract, and leave those who are ill-equipped to pick up the pieces
In the 20s and 30s, with no refrigerators we made a number of trips throughout the week to the corner shop, and on Saturdays into the high Street for the roast and possibly something special. The Minister is right to be concerned, because she has to deal with the waste that we throw out, and also is probably concerned about the energy lost in the growing, processing and transporting of what we have thrown away. As pensioners I find that we waste very little because we have the time to shop, and are more careful with our expenditure. Unfortunately I don’t think there are any lessons to be learned from what I’ve said here, it’s too late