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Release peace: the magazine

Release peace: the magazine

Analysis & Background Stories on International Affairs

Riga, Latvia: Great Taste - Zero Waste

Article by: Amelia Simmons

The Food Waste Issue

Every day, supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, and manufacturers throw away delicious and fresh food- just because it hasn’t sold in time. In the European Union alone, a staggering 88 million tonnes of food ends up being wasted annually. This equates to an eye-watering estimation of €143 billion in value. At the same time, people cannot afford to put a proper meal on the table. Whilst 20% of food manufactured is getting dumped in landfills, 33 million people in the EU cannot access a quality meal for more than two days in a row. But thankfully, there are efforts to tackle this problem. At a time when the cost of living is skyrocketing, the struggle against food waste is a crucial issue. The Danish Cultural Institute (DCI) is just one of many organisations addressing food waste. Let us find out how.

Great Taste: Zero Waste

In 2021, Simon D Holmberg, the CEO of the DCI’s Baltics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) branch, stated, “There is an urgent need to fight the increasing food waste problem by renewing and innovating our food culture into a more sustainable and creative one.”. To address the problem, the ‘Great Taste – Zero Waste’ event was devised. It aimed to provide solutions to minimise food waste and promote sustainable food culture by sharing knowledge and experience between the Baltics, Nordics, and Poland. All of these regions have vastly different cultural and historical backgrounds when it comes to managing food waste and thus collaboration was key to sharing their diverse knowledge. A variety of stakeholders were able to share their expertise in the fields of food, gastronomy and waste reduction. So, what did the event entail?

Before and During the Event

Organised by the DCI, as well as EIT Food, the Danish Embassy in Latvia and the Nordic Council of Ministers Office in Latvia, the conference was free of charge and live streamed online. This was key to ensuring it was accessible for all, whilst reaching a wider audience. Before it took place, chefs attending could experience a hands-on masterclass on how to reduce food waste. This transcended into an open document being created, allowing chefs in these regions to type and share their knowledge of future food waste plans. When the event began, leading researchers and representatives from environmental NGOs shared their latest findings on food waste and consumption. And this was followed by the top chefs from the regions holding an array of culinary conversations, focussing on specific methods for participants to reduce their food waste daily. But what could viewers learn from this?

Education, the Key Ingredient for Success

High levels of collaboration between experts and stakeholders are great ingredients for creating a wealth of knowledge and information about a topic. And that is exactly what happened at the Great Taste – Zero Waste event. Chefs themselves could learn several ways to stop their waste bins from overflowing with perfectly edible food. One of the most suggested ways to do this was team education. Many experts argued educating chefs on product and producer knowledge would contribute to reducing food waste. So, the more that information in events such as this was shared, the closer we would become to reducing food waste.

More solutions for Chefs in the Kitchens

On top of this, they suggested that the production of a chef’s own meal ingredients, or even choosing local ingredients rather than importing, would make the most of seasonal products, saving them from being wasted. Furthermore, a specific recommendation was made to fine dining restaurants and their chefs. New food trends in the kitchen mean that not everything needs to look perfect. Therefore, rather than wasting, for example, a third of a potato by carefully carving it into a piercingly sharp-edged rectangle, perhaps they could save the chopping and go for a little less wasteful, more rugged look. But what can individuals do to help?

What You Can Do Daily

The event also focused on what people can do daily, in their own households, to reduce waste. Ultimately, there are four key ways to ensure your food is not unnecessarily wasted. First, love your leftovers. Leftovers are the perfect base for another meal as long as you think ahead. The next time you throw away surplus vegetables from a Sunday Roast, consider blitzing them with stock to create a scrumptious soup. Second, remember your stockpile. Many of us have all been in the supermarket and bought, for example, a new bag of carrots, forgetting the ones which have been sitting in your bottom cupboard for weeks, waiting to be eaten. Next, keep it cool. Rather than throwing away the leftover spaghetti bolognaise, why don’t you put it in containers and freeze it for the next time you fancy an Italian delight? And last, cook the right amount of food. When preparing a meal, a quick Google search can tell you the exact amount of food you should be cooking per person, saving any unwanted leftovers.

Food for Thought, Not Waste

So, it is clear that food waste is a very relevant problem. The value of food thrown away daily is inconceivable considering how many people cannot afford to put a proper meal on the table. Some would argue that we are at a pivotal point in time, whereby the cost of living is exceeding wages and the latter ratio, of food waste to meals on tables,  is widening. Efforts by organisations such as the DCI are providing the much-needed steps to reducing this global issue. By offering an accessible platform for a variety of knowledgeable stakeholders to share and express their ideas, both businesses and households can contribute to reducing food waste. For more information, you can find, download and share the online tool kit document here: Tool Kit Great Taste Zero Waste. It includes an array of delicious recipes, as well as step-by-step detailed instructions on how to make a difference. Collaboration can minimise food waste globally.

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