Saturday, 02 July 2022

Food that’s too good to waste

Food that’s too good to waste

WE all like to eat out, for a birthday treat, an afternoon tea or just for lunch. Food prepared by a chef and cleared up by someone else — what’s not to like?

Brits like eating out — in 2019 immediately before lockdown, when many restaurants were closed, we spent more than £100 billion on food and drink outside the home. Consumer spending on catering services has doubled since 1997.

The flip side of all this enjoyable eating and drinking is food waste.

In the home, matching food supply to food demand is a matter of being organised, planning meals and shopping in advance, correctly storing foods and using up leftovers in other meals.

In a restaurant or café it’s more difficult as demand is harder to predict and dependent on factors such as the weather or events.

Food safety regulations mean that food the home cook might eat, restaurants and cafés must dispose of.

From an environmental point of view, this is a big deal. Food production requires use of fertiliser, transportation and packaging, all of which release greenhouse gases, and wasted food may rot in landfill, releasing even more. More than one third of all food produced globally is wasted.

Many cafés and restaurants are using imaginative ways to deal with food waste, including giving to food banks or local organisations. One interesting initiative is the Too Good to Go app, which allows anyone to pick up food from cafés or restaurants at the end of the day that would otherwise have gone to waste. The developers say they have prevented
52 million meals from going into landfill since the app’s launch in 2016.

Businesses find the app useful. For example, the Daisy Love café in Station Road, Henley, finds that forecasting demand can be difficult as it only opened in August last year.

Olivia, a member of staff, told me that the glorious weather over the Easter weekend meant that while there were more people in Henley, most of them were down by the river so the café did not receive as much extra trade as it had expected.

App users can reserve a “magic bag” for a small set price and pick it up just before the café closes. This will have a mixture of leftover items in it — bagels, cakes, whatever there is.

The café earns a small amount from food that would otherwise have gone to waste, the customer gets a bargain and the environment benefits. Olivia said that using the app meant that virtually nothing was thrown away.

I tried the app myself. I reserved a magic bag from Caffè Nero in Bell Street, and picked it up just before it closed. For £3.09, I received a bag containing two pain au chocolat, macaroni cheese and some tasty chicken and broccoli soup — a quick dinner, breakfast and lunch the next day. Purchased at full price, this would have cost me £10.

Caffè Nero estimates that the magic bags scheme has saved 50,000 bags of surplus food from going to waste in its cafés since it joined in 2019. That’s a saving of 125 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of charging 2.7 billion smartphones.

So if you want to do your bit to reduce food waste, help the environment and save money at the same time, try downloading the Too Good to Go app, which is free from the App Store.

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