By 2050, the world will need 60 per cent more calories per year to feed a projected population of 9 billion. Cutting the rate of global food loss and waste could help bridge this food gap while creating environmental and economic benefits. And the people of Denmark are already well ahead in the race to cut food waste. While the Stop Wasting Food movement is the national embodiment of a collective consciousness, the need to cut back on waste has seeped through the consumer chain, as NPR finds.
At a festival on the Danish island of Fyn, Claus Holm, a fast-talking Danish celebrity chef, is sniffing and mixing into a pot of stew an ingredient he calls “totally forbidden.” It’s cream, and it expires today.
Danes’ increasing willingness to buy and consume items like just-expired dairy products has helped make them, arguably, the world champions in the fight against food waste. According to a recent report from the Danish government, Danes now throw away 25 percent less food than they did five years ago.
Holm is one of many people who have been working to make that so, and it’s why he’s here today: to prove that expired products lurking at the back of the fridge can still be delicious. For two hours, he works his way through kitchen carts piled with a messy array of stickered-up products: bruised basil, tired baguettes, squishy tomatoes and huge hunks of slightly graying meat.
If Holm is an ambassador in Denmark’s anti-waste movement, then the queen has to be Selina Juul, a peppy 35-year-old who emigrated from Russia as a teen. In 2008, after years of dismay at the amount of food she saw landing in Danish trash cans, Juul started the organization Stop Wasting Food.
Farmers and retailers often get the brunt of the criticism when it comes to food waste, but Juul decided to start at the other end. “I thought, ‘Who can we move? Well, we can move the people.’ So we started focusing on the people,” she says.
It was an efficient strategy, given that individual consumers are responsible for 36 percent of food waste in this country, compared to retailers (23 percent), the food processors (19 percent) and primary producers (14 percent), according to figures from the Ministry of the Environment and Food.
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