Food waste is a by-product where the real conversation is food.
I have read most available studies released over the past two years while reviewing solutions for food waste. I also read the recent “Beyond the swipe or the click” report. In all cases, after the final report has been released, the question that remains unanswered is how can we convert initial engagement in a food waste reduction message, into sustained behavioural change?
Stop trying. Communication on food waste should focus on awareness, attitudes, and understanding of the significant impact food waste has on the environment. That is important.
To create sustained behavioural change, the topic is food. To emphasise this point; In Australia, we have more than 400 locally-based food bloggers who substantially post recipes. Just one Sydney blogger regularly receives well over one million website hits each month, as well as 37,900 video views on YouTube. By contrast, the NSW EPA Love Food Hate Waste Facebook page, which has diligently operated for more than five years, presented 13 excellent food waste posts during March 2022, receiving 523 likes in total.
Addressing food behaviour from the position of reducing food waste is starting at the wrong end of the horse. Food waste is not a problem that people reach out to solve. Food and recipes however are among the most searched topics on the web.
Household food accounts for more waste than the rest of the food supply chain combined. While the food industry are mobilised and steadily succeeding with supply chain innovation, half the food waste problem has stalled and is going nowhere.
Food waste is the by-product of our food media and supply ecosystem. My guess is that countries, where people create flavours and cook intuitively using local seasonal ingredients, have less food waste at a consumer level.
Unfortunately, recipe blogs and even conventional cooking shows are part of the problem. The solution to food waste is to promote an alternate “food first” framework for creating wonderful meals. Put simply we really do need to learn how to eat what we buy.
The secret to living well is knowing how to keep wonderful food at your fingertips. Cooking hacks, tips, and tricks are not enough. To change long-term behaviour, we need to engage and train people in planning, provisioning, preparation, and preservation of wonderful food.