The awareness and reduction of food wastage has for quite a long time been a passion of mine. Stemming from my first experiences living out of home as a University Student, the navigation of portion sizes, meal planning and time/resource management with cooking have become key factors in my awareness about the impact and prevalence of food wastage.
In fact, according to FoodWise, Australians are responsible for throwing away an astounding 20% of the food they buy, the equivalent of 1 in every 5 bags of groceries purchased. For the average Australian household, this equates to $1036 worth of wasted food every year, and collectively this figure amounts to 4 million tonnes of food ending up in landfill yearly. The worst offenders of all? 18-24 year olds.
Food wastage in Australian households is evidently a remarkable issue with significant environmental and economic issues. What interests me in particular, however, is the way in which students have tried to address this issue on both an individual and community level, the attitudes that students have towards food wastage, and the approaches made by relevant institutions (ie. universities) to help promote awareness and actively reduce the impact.
So why should we care about food wastage within this demographic, and what makes this such an important topic to be explored further?
Evidently, this demographic is one of the greatest contributors to the issue of food wastage in Australia. To give this a global perspective: The world’s population hit seven billion in 2011 and could reach 11 billion by 2100, putting a substantial strain on the global food supply. This generation will be the one that grows up amidst a growing demand for food and tensions arising over supply and demand. It is imperative that people like myself and other members of this generation are educated on this impending reality, and change their habits.
In order to make this research more timely and achievable, I have split the project into two three sections:
- Student’s attitudes towards food wastage:
How do students feel about the issue of food wastage? Are they aware of the significance of this issue? Is it something that they care about?
Aside from the obvious environmental impacts, the economic repercussions of food wastage are perhaps what makes this issue even more relevant for students. As previously noted, the average Australian household throws away around $1036 worth of consumable food every year. Considering more than 66 per cent of students report being worried about their financial situation, actions as simple as planning meals, creating shopping lists and creatively using leftovers have the potential to save Australian students hundreds of crucial dollars. Hence, this topic is highly relevant for university age citizens and has the potential to benefit both the participants in the study as well as their associates.
2. Student’s behaviours towards food wastage:
What are some actions taken by students in actively reducing food wastage? Do they write a shopping list? Do they plan their meals throughout the week? Do they know the difference between “use by” and “best before” dates? How much food do they actually throw away?
As Food Waste Philosophy explains, learning to budget for food, stick to a shopping list and plan meals is often a lesser priority for university students. As those moving out of home for the first time try to navigate the exciting new world of socialising, working and studying, something as simple as cooking for yourself is taken for granted. I know this too, from my own experience, that the ability to shop for and portion food with only one person in mind (rather than a whole family) takes a lot of getting used to.
3. Current approaches taken by Australian universities and institutions in raising a consciousness about this issue.
Do universities host events which educate students on habits and methods of food waste reduction? Are students aware of these events? Are on-campus cafes and restaurants promoting food waste reduction?
While an individual approach is definitely imperative, it is also essential to have a “supply chain approach” when it comes to food wastage (FAO, 2013). It is hoped that through exhibiting the current opportunities available to students by means of education and action, a potential for further activities may arise. Perhaps by identifying a gap in the market for student education an opportunity for greater prevalence or publicity of events may emerge. Or, perhaps participants in research and their associates may become aware of ways in which their institutions help address this issue, and ideally would become involved with such events.
All in all, it is hoped that this research will spark a conversation about the huge impact of food wastage as well as the very simple ways that we (students) on an individual level can help contribute to a solution. It is hoped that through raising awareness students will become aware of the opportunities available to them to get involved in positive community initiatives, and even encourage the Universities to administer more constructive and valuable events with relation to this concern.
(And while you’re here…)
Please have a look at my project “recreAte”, a website helping students find creative solutions and recipes to use up unwanted food and ingredients they have leftover at home.
ABC. 2017. Below the poverty line: The real cost of being a university student. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-30/the-real-cost-of-being-a-university-student/8530606. [Accessed 13 March 2018]
FAO. 2013. Toolkit : Reducing the Food Wastage Footprint. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3342e/i3342e.pdf. [Accessed 10 March 2018].
Food Waste Phiolosophy. 2018. Food Waste as a Student. [ONLINE] Available at: https://foodwastephilosophy.com/food-waste-as-a-student/. [Accessed 11 March 2018]
FoodWise. 2018. Food Waste Fast Facts. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/. [Accessed 13 March 2018].
Huffington Post. 2017. The $1 Trillion Mountain: The Actual Cost Of Food Waste. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-mandyck/the-1-trillion-mountain-t_b_11653386.html. [Accessed 13 March 2018].
The Guardian. 2016. Student solutions to the world’s food waste problem. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jul/31/student-solutions-to-the-worlds-food-waste-problem. [Accessed 6 March 2018]
Featured Image: Author’s Own