Documentary highlights food waste issue with world-famous chefs

A group of world-famous chefs are attempting to spread the word about the growing problem of food waste through a new feature-length documentary – ‘WASTED! The Story of Food Waste’ – which will get its UK premiere in London next week.

Documentary highlights food waste issue with world-famous chefs
The film will have its UK premiere in London next week as part of the Evening Standard's Food Month
The documentary, produced by world famous chef Anthony Bourdain and supported by philanthropic organisation The Rockefeller Foundation, aims to shed new light onto how food is treated in the supply chain and why so much goes to waste.

Around one-third of the world’s food is thrown away before it reaches a plate – about 1.3 billion tonnes a year, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), enough to feed 1.6 billion people.

As well as being a waste of produce worth hundred of billions of pounds (the UK alone wastes some £17 billion of food a year), the global epidemic of food waste has huge environmental ramifications: if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world behind only the United States and China.

The FAO estimates that food loss and waste throughout the supply chain – through water use, fertiliser, harvesting, packaging and transport – accounts for around 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, compared to around 500 million tonnes in the UK.

Talking to the Hollywood Reporter, Bourdain said that the most shocking thing that he has noticed through travelling the world for food programmes is “the sheer scope of the problem, especially in supermarkets”. He said: “I was familiar with the fact that many of our animal products are modified to be transported and look good, but the need to give this impression of endless abundance of ‘always pretty’ food on the shelves was shocking to me, particularly as I’ve become more familiar with European and Asian markets over the years.”

Directed by filmmakers Anna Chai and Nari Kye, the documentary speaks to renowned chefs and food waste campaigners Danny Bowien, Dan Barber, who brought a pop-up food waste restaurant, wastED, to London earlier this year, and Massimo Bottura, chef patron of the ‘world’s best restaurant’, Osteria Francescana, in Modena, Italy; as they offer their perspectives on how waste can be reduced.

Three Michelin-starred Bottura has also been supporting the ‘No Leftovers Week’ campaign, a Slovenian initiative to reduce food waste and in March opened a community kitchen in London serving lunches made from surplus food to vulnerable people.

As well as studying the global problem that food waste presents, the film also looks at how communities and governments are trying to reduce food waste, including a South Korean disposal programme that has cut household food waste by 30 per cent and a garden education curriculum in New Orleans.

Kye told “As filmmakers, we want to do [highlight food waste] in a way that is both entertaining and also spread certain facts and statistics about this dire problem. But also show everyday people that they can make a difference, which I think is the hardest struggle as a filmmaker and for people who work in social-awareness documentaries: It’s effective when you scare people and do some kind of fear-mongering; it does have a lasting impact. However, our film is different in that we’re trying to show people the positive ways that people are already doing this and how people themselves after watching it can do various things in their lives to reduce food waste.”

The film premiered in April at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival and will be screened in London next week as part of the Evening Standard’s Food Month. The screening, at the Curzon cinema in Chelsea, will be followed by a food waste panel featuring co-director Anna Chai, Justin Byam-Shaw of food redistribution charity The Felix Project, Skye Gyngell of Spring Restaurant, Patrick Drake of grocery delivery service Hello Fresh, and columnist Grace Dent.

The Rockerfeller Foundation, which has supported the film’s creation, has added focus on the global issue of food waste in the past year. Last January the organisation launched its YieldWise initiative – a seven-year, US$130-million (£92-million) commitment to halving food loss and waste globally.

Through YieldWise, the foundation aims to engage private, non-profit, and government actors from across the food supply system, focusing on linking small and big businesses that can mutually benefit from diversified sources for products and enhanced markets.

In December, the foundation joined with the United States Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency to launch, an online hub to facilitate the exchange of information and solutions to help the US meet its goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030.

The foundation’s President, Dr Judith Rodin said: “The amount of food lost or wasted before it ever reaches a table is simply unacceptable, with devastating impacts on people, profit, and planet, yet it’s a challenge that can be prevented with a blend of existing solutions, from technologies that help farmers keep more of what they grow to models for private-sector engagement that ensure those crops will be bought, rather than left to rot.”

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