Food Waste and Poverty Seminar at The University of Sheffield

The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield had the chance to go to a wonderful seminar yesterday at The University of Sheffield organised by PhD scholars from The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures.

The seminar included expert speakers and a panel discussion on food waste and food poverty to discuss the gap between food production and consumption and how we can live more sustainably. Tristram Stuart from Feedback GlobalDr Hannah Lambie-Mumford from Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) and Tim Allen from Sheffield on a Plate all gave fascinating talks and discussions on the global, economic and local impact of food waste.


Tristram gave real food for thought with facts from Kenya where the humble trimmed fine bean is grown and exported to the UK. Originally 1/3 of each bean would have been trimmed to fit the packet and 30-40% of the crop would not make it past the vanity checks. Even still, the beans that made it this far might not make it to your plate if the supermarket cancels or reduces the order. Such wastage is rife within the global food chain.

Another takeaway from Tristram is the difference between Consumer Food Waste and Supermarket Food Waste. Supermarkets claim they are only responsible for a small amount of waste from their stores but they don’t measure waste from unused offal, fish discarded at sea and the rejected crops from overseas. They are able to offload this waste and blame consumers for the waste we put in our bins, even inedible tea bags count against us! To put this in to perspective check out the food intercepted by The Real Junk Food Project Leeds recently from a single supermarket and a food photographer:

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Hannah brought some stark facts regarding food poverty to the packed audience. The Trussell Trust had released their stats for 2014-15 highlighting the 1,084,604 people that were given emergency food packs. Over a million people and up almost 20% from the previous year. The primary causes for people needing food banks in this period are benefit delays, low income and benefit changes. You can see the full stats here:

Finally Tim Allen from Sheffield on a Plate presented what they are doing to increase awareness of food waste amongst students in Sheffield. Aided by funding from the NUS Student’s Green Fund and partnered with Grow Sheffield the project is the first of it’s kind in the UK and has engaged students in a number of spin-off projects such as Save our Sandwiches, Abundance Sheffield, The Big Stew and Food Drives.

The event was followed by a very useful networking session at The University Arms where contacts were swapped and ideas forged. Food waste reduction is already very active in Sheffield across many organisations and we’re really excited to be bringing The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield into fruition!

Did anyone have any thoughts on the seminar? Would love to hear from you if so!

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