Food waste: good enough for world leaders…

By Thea Gordon-Rawlings, SRA Marketing Volunteer

Have you ever wondered what gets dished up for lunch at a UN conference?

I have fantasised that at a meeting of the 193 member nations, every country’s cuisine might be represented for delegates to feast upon. But then think of food miles, and all that would go to waste in each country’s efforts to show off the very finest, most pristine ingredients they have to offer!

In recent years the world stage provided by UN conferences has been used to highlight some of the most deeply entrenched problems within food systems, and last weekend it was the turn of food waste to step into the limelight.

With topics under discussion at the informal lunch including; Sustainable Development goals and climate change, the ingredients that the menu was crafted around could not have been more appropriate. The new goals for 2015 include achieving food security and ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns, so it would appear on point that UN representatives should sit down to experiment with new, more sustainable ways of sharing food together.

What could be a greater reassurance that we’re heading in the right direction than world leaders giving their seal of approval to a lunch made entirely from food that would usually have ended up in the bin? The virtuous menu, created by a team of chefs whose passion for creating delicious food from what would generally be discarded, left no room for any awkward questions for catering staff or conversation about the meal’s provenance between diners. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that the aim of the lunch was to highlight the role of food waste as an “overlooked aspect of climate change”.

Dishes included “chickpea water”, “landfill salad” and “cow corn fries” with “bruised beet ketchup”, with dessert being rustled up from the outer shell of a cocoa bean and leftover materials from the nut pressing process. Not your usual state banquet menu!

Hedonism a better tool than lecturing

The masterminds behind the meal were Dan Barber, chef at New York’s Blue Hill restaurant, and former White House chef Sam Kass, who reconfigured an archetypal American meal of burger and fries with all the trimmings from the inside out. “The long-term goal of this [meal] would be not to [be able to] create a waste meal”, Barber told the Washington Post. “You don’t do that by lecturing – you do that by hedonism, by making these world leaders have a delicious meal that will make them think about spreading the message.”

Barber has recently released his book The Third Plate, which aims to reach beyond the “farm-to-table” movement that has moved the USA’s food system towards a more sustainable place in recent decades. He paints a hopeful picture of how those in the food services industry and their customers can advance the ethics of their practices through personal anecdotes and the tale-telling of American staple foods.

Here at the SRA we’re committed to finding ways in which our members and customers can transform their practices to become more sustainable, without sacrificing their core identity. Dan Barber’s message is a sage one. Get people to enjoy Good food and they’ll buy into the message and come back for more. Food waste ranks highly on the list of concerns for those who dine out and those who produce the food that they eat. By creatively making use of things which have previously seen as defunct, employing a root to shoot and nose to tail policy, upcyling ingredients and incorporating them into menus and ensuring they are truly delicious, you’re making food good.

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