Sometime last year, I wrote about food wastage in hotels. It does pain me to see a lot of food served to people who couldn't possibly eat that much, only to be thrown in the bin. Our society seems to want to see abundance all around us in every shape and form, as some sort of marker of our success. Restaurants often want to show diners large quantities on their plates (or, if they're following the 'small plates' trend, they want to give you lots of those plates). Watching cooking programmes on TV, it's not unusual (and indeed we expect) to see over-stuffed larders, and tables packed with a mosaic of colourful dishes and pretty plates.
In the supermarket, there are so many shelves of fresh, packaged fish, meat and chicken. The shelves seem to want to be full all of the time. But does all of that actually get sold? WRAP, an organisation working to reduce food wastage, estimates that, in supermarkets and convenience stores in the UK alone, 3.6 million tonnes of food product was wasted in 2009. To put that immense figure in perspective, it's roughly equivalent to the weight of 13 double-decker Airbus A380s, without passengers and luggage. (Given that food product is not going to be as dense as the material that goes into making an aircraft, I can't imagine what volume 3.6 million tonnes would take up.)
That seems to me to be such a pity. If people are not buying it, why are shops stocking it? Why is this stuff making it into the supply chain at all, if we're supposed to be operating in free markets? (Yep, loaded question.) I can't help feeling that nature yields such beauteous creations to nourish us with, but that it's a bit of a slap in the face, the way we greedily grab as much as we can of all of that and use it so callously.
This is why I'd like to share a book published by a dear friend of ours. Titled 'Ocean Commotion', the book is a story for children written by Aruna Khanzada and beautifully illustrated with photographs of craft-work fish (all of which was made by children at a recent event at the Chalk Farm Library). I don't want to give away the story, but you can preview it (and buy a copy if you like) here. Aruna is, in my humble opinion, one of those positive-energy-people spinning in the Universe, and I'm so glad that she's channelled some of her energy into this book.
Over-fishing, together with food wastage more generally, is a problem. And as with many problems, I think awareness is the first step.