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It is not true that 'there is a remedy for all', as the saying goes. It is true, however, that often with a bit of 'common sense and goodwill you can find solutions to many of the problems that beset us. As we believe we are not lacking in both good sense and goodwill, let us try to outline some possible solutions to the various and complex criticalities due to food waste. Below are listed the ones already described in the section 'Who wastes and why', each of them followed by some specific, possible corrective measures.

A general remedy for food surpluses produced in almost all stages of the supply chain (the only exception are those ensuing the consumption stage) is to allocate them to those in need through the food bank and the charitable organizations. Among these, in Italy, should be mentioned the Food Bank and Last Minute Market.  

 

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  Suggestions for institutions 

 

 

 

Overproduction

Remedy: Relocation of the agricultural economy 

 

 

 

 

Notwithstanding the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy of the EU) intervention to protect the European agricultural market from third countries competitors and in spite of its compensating  fruit and vegetable surplus by giving it a specific use and destination, (including free distribution), there is still an excessively large amount of unpicked products in the fruit and vegetable segment. 

 

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It seems to us that a most effective tool to reduce it significantly is the ‘relocation’ of the agricultural economy and the return to a local dimension where  demand easily meets supply, producers meet consumers. Promoting “farm to table” products, and seasonal products, the farmers market, farm gate sales, (GAS) ethical purchasing groups, the promotion of typical local products by some of the Large Retail Organizations (GDO), all these initiatives aim to the same goal and, strengthening their purpose will provide higher profits for producers as well as drastically reducing wastage.

 

 

 

Bargaining issues between production and distribution

Remedies: Redirecting and Reusing food surpluses

 

As a rule surpluses at this stage can be thought of as a fungible commodity, as it has the significant advantages of being cheaper (less heavy operating costs) and easier to recycle. For example, mozzarella cheese past their sell-by date, therefore returned or unsold, can be sold and / or used as fillings for frozen or pre-packaged pizzas.

 


It is therefore important for the processing industry to find alternative uses or rebalance the bargaining procedure within the supply chain through sell offs and promotional offers by LRO (Italian GDO), as already happens for typical products (like panettone , pandoro and so on) after the Christmas time.

 

 

The European Union project Fusions (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention Strategies) has created a cooperative platform that brings together all stakeholders (policy makers, producers, distributors, consumers' associations, etc..) simplifying interaction, thus contributing to reduce food waste the waste: the objective is to reduce it to (to slash it to a) 50% by 2020.

 

 

 

Forsaking the ' doggy bag 'and other catering waste

Remedy: New habits and New organizational policies 

 

Recently, new initiatives aimed at spreading the use of doggy bag or similar have sprung up in Italy too; one example worth mentioning is 'The Good advancing moving forward' in Lombardy and 'Buta Stupa' in Piedmont. We can't still keep up with the Anglo-Saxon countries, but we are making progress. Also in the field of catering services (canteens ) something starts to move, at least at the European level.

 


The French multinational firm Sodexo, for example, has launched the Stop Wasting Food project, which tries to counteract the tendency to waste in canteens. It asks its customers not to use the tray, so that they will have to take less food at each step; it invites them to take a little at a time and in more rounds, keeping them informed about the food wastage footprint on the environment, for example. 

 


If all canteens were to adopt these principles, we would see a definite decrease in food waste in catering services.  Again, pertaining the catering industry, to extend the practice of asking customers (which, in canteens, are regular by definition) to indicate their preferences in advance, a day earlier, would be beneficial.

 

 

 

Aesthetic imperfections

Remedy: Ugly but Good

 

 Here it is necessary to intervene with information campaigns to explain that it is not at all certain that a less 'appealing' product is less healthy, tasty and nutritious too, indeed the opposite is usually true. 

 


Much remains to be done, especially by Governments and more generally by public authorities that should be in charge this type of intervention as a rule. Making information is, in fact, just one of the goals of A Good Opportunity.

 

 

In this sense, much remains to be done, especially by Governments, and more generally, public bodies, which normally it would be for this type of intervention. To give information is, in fact, just one of the goals of A Good Opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelves full

Remedy: The 'decreasing

 

Even in this case it is essential to launch effective information campaigns: we must realize that it is not the abundance of goods that determines the quality of the sales outlet. This is all the more a difficult task because full shelves infuse reassurance in a way, giving everyone the impression of being able to ‘pick and choose’ anything. A Good Opportunity is committed to raise consumers' awareness.

 

 

People's, a supermarket in London, is managed by a cooperative which also includes customers, who, for 25 pounds per year and 4 hours of voluntary work per month, are allowed a 10% discount on their purchases. In addition, People's has an inside kitchen where products close to expiry are used to make ready meals (soups, pies, and so on).

 

 

 

Expiry Dates

Remedies: Time must have a stop

 

No, time cannot be stopped but even eternal youth is a myth!

 

 

 

Damaged packaging

Remedy: Make-up or Sale

 

Surpluses resulting from the damage of secondary packaging can be remedied in two ways, by replacing it wherever possible (sustaining the cost of labour and material) or by discounting the price of the package.

 

 

 

Impulse buy

Remedy: a sensible Marketing

 

To overcome this problem it is necessary to act in two directions, on the one hand it is necessary to launch information campaigns to reacquire the healthy habit planning purchases (the famous shopping list), on the other is necessary that the Large Retail Organizations change their promotional campaigns and put on the market pre-packaged individual meals (also with private label i.e. their own trademark) finally acknowledging that 31.2% of the Italian population (ISTAT 2011 census) consists of singles.


In this regard, things are beginning to move: are worth mentioning, among others, the British initiative of Sainsbury's and Tesco called BOGOF or 'Buy One, Get One Free Late' to counteract waste due to 2x1 or 3x2promotions. In this case, customers do buy two products at the price of one, but they can pick up the second one only a week later, so that they might be able to actually consume it. Likewise needs mentioning the promotional activity regarding products near their expiry date undertaken by all the already mentioned Large Retail Organizations, which has joined the project of A Good Opportunity.

 

 

 

The tendency to cook too much food

Remedy: The happy sobriety

 

To get around this problem we should start, so to speak ... from the beginning! The secret lies in helping children dealing with food in the right way, by encouraging them to finish their meals without leaving anything on the plate for example. Scolding or threats are unnecessary: they should be given less abundant portions, while explaining that leaving uneaten bites might lead to all sorts of undesirable consequences.  By the way food is a primal object of interest for children, who want to know everything: what it is, where it comes from, who grew it, what are its properties (particularly its magical powers...), etc.. Just playing on this spontaneous interest is the key to astounding results.

If children are served smaller portions they are able to finish regularly, then adults are likely to adjust accordingly by cooking less food. In addition, the child of today is the adult of tomorrow, growing up in a house careful not to waste; he will probably perpetuate the same eating habits within his new family.

Another aspect that need intervention, this time with adults, is the psychological reassurance. It would be great being able to explain to people that overeating is not a sign of economic and psychological well-being but, on the contrary, it is a clear indicator of insecurity.  Psychologists teach us that searching for oral satisfaction is one of the most common strategies through which we try to control anxiety. Too bad it does not work, if anything partially, and for a very limited time.

Of course, we take care not to generalize too much: we cannot say it is all and the same for everyone, it is just that for many of us, the need for reassurance plays a relevant role. A higher level of psychological awareness could help reduce, at least in part, this phenomenon.

 

 

 

 

 

Reluctance to use up leftovers

Remedy: Master Chef with leftovers Recipes

 

 

Leftovers from today’s meal should be part of tomorrow’s meal, but often it is not so, for several reasons. First of all, in our society, which gives much importance to the ostentation of well-being, to use up of leftovers is often perceived as a behaviour typical of 'poor devils’; that is way saving leftovers has to be done almost stealthily, within the household, far from prying eyes. Never ever, we would venture to serve a dish based on reworked leftovers in a convivial situation.

Take for example the common leftover flan: Who would dream at a dinner with friends to put it on the table saying it was made with the leftovers?

But, one wonders whether these social niceties are preferable to our grandparents (creative leftover users) conviviality, certainly more easygoing and friendly. The answer is up to you.

 

 

 

In Germany the web platform  had the idea to combine the reuse of food scraps with the typical dynamics of social networking. If I live, for example, in Darmstadt and I have a lot of cucumbers that are going bad in the fridge, I can log into the platform and send an invitation to get together, maybe in a park, to eat the ”blessed Gurken” (German cucumbers), and why not, have them with the leftovers from someone else’s fridge. Usually the answers to these notices are numerous and enthusiastic. 

 

 

Another problem lies in the fact that while, our grandparents were 'well trained' to cook leftovers, we have lost this ability along the way (apart from some worthy exception). Also because the recipes for leftovers from the day before are often more complicated, requiring more time and application than the ‘usual’ ones. Making  “arancini” with rice, meatballs with scraps of meat, flash-frying in a pan pasta from the day before (which, by the way, if you know how to make it gets crunchy and tastier than the original one) ... these are some of  yesterday ‘classics’, today less and less put into practice today.

To refresh our memory we asked Slow Food to publish on our platform a series of recipes, from the easiest to the most elaborate, focusing on creative ways to use up leftovers.

 

 

 

The waste of water

 

Remedies:  “Come back to Sorrento

 

 

 

 

 

The return to a Mediterranean diet, rich in grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits and olive oil is the most effective remedy to counteract an excessive consumption of water, energy and territory, (one hectare planted with pulses is sufficient to feed sixty-six people in one year, while one hectare used for fodder suffice one person’s need)  resulting from the 'McDonaldization' of our eating habits. Also considering it is better for our health...

 

 

While the Mediterranean diet requires the consumption of approximately 1700 cubic meters of water per capita a year, the one typical of the Anglo-Saxon countries, stands at about 2,600 cubic meters.

Source: 'The Blue Book of waste in Italy: ‘the water'  by Andrea Segré and Luca Falasconi

 

 

 

Ignorance of the rules of home economics

Remedies: the ten commandments

 

 

 

The basic rules for an “intelligent” running of the household are few, simple and quickly carried out.



Some examples? Here they are...

 

  • make a shopping list;

  • in the refrigerator, put forward the foods near to their use-by date and behind those recently purchased; 

  • get a large freezer and remember to put in cold storage all those foods which,  unless in case of ravenous hunger attacks, we will not be able to consume within two or three days; 

  • if possible, buy directly from the grower and, possibly, fresh seasonal products that last longer; 

  • engage in the preparation of leftovers recipes; 

  • develop a more practical sense while considering special offers and always wonder if we really need the 2 for 1 products we're buying with so much enthusiasm...; 

  • do not rummage through the shelves in search of those packages with a more distant date of expiry, consider instead if the days prior to the use-by date are compatible with our foreseeable needs; 

  • facing a product nearing its expiry date, let us 'test' it with our senses and consume it without fear; 

  • grasp the difference between ‘a use-by date' ('to be consumed before a certain date'), pointed out for health and safety reasons, and 'best before' used to identify foods which will noticeably spoil within the date marking but will not become a safety issue; 

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    (generously) pass food 'in excess' down to neighbors or organize to consume them in convivial situations.

     

 

 

 

 

Simple things, within everybody’s reach. So why not do those, starting from... now?

 

If you have any doubts about the correct methods of food preservation or want to ask for advice to an expert, specialists from the Institute for Animal Disease Control and Prevention of Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta in Liguria, are also available.

 

 

 

 

Download PDF for more information:

 

  Suggestions for consumers - part 1

 

  Suggestions for consumers - part 2

 

 

 

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