Think. Eat. Save. Why we need to repurpose our fridge. @OzHarvest. #mealforameal

Bill Pritchard is the Associate Professor in Human Geography at the University of Sydney. I first read this post late last week and it was set for a run in the mainstream media but extraordinary events dictated otherwise.

Today Bill and I both participated in Oz Harvest’s incredible Think. Eat. Save initiative in Martin Place. He agreed to let me post his piece on my blog.

Thanks Bill.

Think. Eat. Save. Why we need to repurpose our fridge. @OzHarvest. #mealforameal

Take a look at your fridge. If it’s like those of many Australians, too many of its contents exist in situational limbo between being bought, semi-consumed, and then, some days, weeks or months later, discarded.

A fridge of half-consumed food might seem like the most implausible subject for serious intellectual enquiry. But in the quest to understand and repair the twenty-first century’s dysfunctional food system, it’s a good place to start.

Our current global food system leaves more than 800 million people under-nourished, makes more than 500 million people obese, and unsustainably diminishes our natural resource base. The current ways in which we produce food aren’t feasible for a future planet of nine billion.

Fixing these problems is tough work. It takes good science, clever policies, and political and civic leadership. However, sometimes the best strategies are also the most obvious. The World Bank has estimated that somewhere between one-third and one-quarter of all food produced in the world is wasted. If we can address this, a huge step forward would be taken.

Why is food wasted? In Australia, the ironic cause of much of the problem is our excellence in transport, logistics and packaging. Our easy access to a huge range of food that is packaged and presented for (apparent) freshness, make the problem of food waste seem invisible.

I’m old enough to remember my mum planning our meals. Sunday dinners would be converted through the week into stews and casseroles. My mum did these things because of the cultural repertoire that defined her generation’s attitude towards food. In an age less dependent on refrigeration and with less packaging, doing the most with the food you had was a moral and economic code. The cookbooks of the age celebrated the creative uses of leftovers.

We shouldn’t invoke nostalgia for its own sake. But remembering the past brings the shortcomings of the present into view. Social, economic and technological systems have seduced consumers into false economies. Buying food in bulk may give the suggestion of cost savings, but these savings evaporate if the food is later discarded. All too often, fridges have become transit zones of poor food choices.

The irony is that with microwaves and other supportive technology, we are better positioned than ever to organise food consumption in ways that minimise wastage. However, contemporary consumer mindsets treasure new and different meals every night, rather than planning weekly food cycles. Supermarkets construct and feed these mentalities by glamourising perfection. Misshapen fruit is filtered out of sight. Packaged foods are sold in increasingly idiosyncratic and expensive ways through manipulations of exotic combinations of ingredients.

The horizon is not all bleak. The Think.Eat.Save initiative by OzHarvest in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme and UN Food & Agriculture Organization, brings these issues to the foreground. Among the hipster communities of the younger generation, food is sexy. In my experience as a lecturer at the University of Sydney, the best and the brightest of the next generation all understand the importance of food politics. Volunteer community gardening is the new black.

These trends don’t reach everyone in society equally. For the many households on struggle street, getting a meal with greatest convenience and lowest price remains the priority. But as a society, we are now starting to have a different kind of conversation about food, and one which is bringing the problem of food waste front and centre. A good start is to look inside your fridge, and think about how and why its contents tell a bigger story about the global food system.

We live in a society where we think we’re still better off if we buy in bulk, leave the detritus of our choices in our refrigerators, and then dump it at zero personal cost for our local Council garbage collectors to pick up.

Whether we’re better off is questionable. Whether the planet is better off is undeniably not the case.

#thankful for Ester and her @dairygoodness

Ester

Ester Wimborne was not famous but she was much loved, almost revered by people who love great dairy, real people and beautiful produce.

She sold Country Valley yoghurts and milks at Eveleigh and Marrickville Markets every weekend for at least the past five years. She died in a road accident last Sunday.

Ester or @dairygoodness as she was known on Twitter, was remembered at the Delicious Produce Awards on Monday. She is a great loss.

Without prompting, our wonderful Business Manager Sophie Steverson drafted this #thankful tribute to Ester, who she saw every weekend for five years.

Soph has agreed that I can post this tribute on my blog. Thanks Soph.

#thankful for Ester and her @dairygoodness

By Sophie Steverson

We had a timely reminder on the weekend on the preciousness of life and how it can be turned upside down when least expected. 

We have been buying our milk and yoghurt from the Eveleigh or Marrickville Markets for the past five years. Once upon a time we brought milk at the supermarket and didn’t really give it much thought. Then we met Ester who sold milk, yoghurt and cheeses at the markets. 

Suddenly there was a story behind where the milk was coming from and every week she would tell us almost exactly the same story about how great her milk was, how many awards it had won and how we wouldn’t find better. We were slow to adapt. I wasn’t convinced. But over time and many a free sample we became addicted. 

We started to share Ester’s love for the product, her never ending and tireless campaigning for the small guys who believed in what they produced. When we had our babies, Ester would personally deliver milk and yoghurt to our house at no extra cost but would love a simple conversation on how we were all going. 

We went for our usual trip to the markets on this Sunday morning just past. As one of the first people to arrive we were told the terrible news that Ester had died in a car accident on her way to the markets, only an hour earlier. 

We were stunned, in shock, not sure how to process the information. While not being close by any means, Ester has played a big part in our weekly habits of the past five years and suddenly she would now not be involved any more. Ester will no longer tell us how much our children are growing and how it must be because of her milk and yoghurt.  

The last time I saw Ester my son was having a meltdown that not even a free sample of juice, yoghurt or butter could abate. I was looking forward to having a real conversation this week but it didn’t happen, and now never will. 

I can’t remember if I ever expressed my real thanks to Ester for being there every week but I’m thankful that we were able to share our Sundays, that she shared her story with us and that we can continue to enjoy her beautiful products and remember her when we do.

Thanks Ester. Rest in beautiful dairy peace.