FACT: We waste at least a third of the world’s food.
National Geographic 2014 Emerging Explorer and activist Tristram Stuart says “ridiculously strict” cosmetic standards among consumers play a major role. His solution: Eat foods often considered too ugly to sell. Stuart works to inspire people to join a “food-waste revolution,” with initiatives like volunteer harvest programs and free communal feasts of food that would otherwise be wasted.
Tristram Stuart thinks we should do something revolutionary with food: Eat it.
The British author calls the problem of food waste “scandalous and grotesque” and cites statistics to prove it:
The planet’s one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment with less than a quarter of the food wasted in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe.
The water used to irrigate food that ends up being thrown away could meet the domestic water needs of nine billion people.
Until a few years ago, the colossal scale of food waste was largely unaddressed. But Stuart’s 2009 book, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, and the grassroots initiatives he launched have lifted the topic from obscurity to prominence worldwide.
“We want to catalyze a food-waste revolution one person, one town, one country at a time—helping stop needless hunger and environmental destruction across our planet,” he says.
In 2009, Stuart launched what has become the flagship event of his global food-waste campaign: Feeding the 5000. Created entirely of food that would otherwise be wasted, the free feast in London has been replicated around the world.
“These events give people a clear, tangible idea of food-waste problems and potential solutions right where they live,” Stuart says. “A few years ago most big U.K. supermarkets wouldn’t even talk to food redistribution charities—today they all do.”
Stuart has also successfully campaigned for retailers to relax strict cosmetic standards for fruit and vegetables. “Farmers leave up to 40 percent of harvests rotting in fields because their produce doesn’t conform to the perfect size or shape big supermarkets demand,” Stuart says. “This even happens in countries like Kenya where millions of people are hungry.”