Nurturing social innovation to reduce food waste

June 18, 2014
Nurturing social innovation to reduce food waste

Innovation for more sustainable food systems is not just about improving food technology and communication activities. Social innovation also has a powerful role to play, according to Sophie Easteal of the FP7-funded FUSIONS (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention Strategies) project who spoke at Green Week in Brussels earlier this month.

Speaking on behalf of WRAP in the UK, one of FUSIONS' 21 project partners, Sophie presented how the project is working towards achieving a more resource efficient Europe by significantly reducing .

Food waste generates severe environmental, economic and social impacts. Food production and consumption in the EU generate an estimated 20 % to 30 % of all EU environmental impacts. It is estimated that the portion of food waste which can be avoided represents an average economic cost of EUR 595 per household per year.

It also reflects a huge global imbalance - while an estimated third to a half 4 of all of current food production ends up as waste, approximately 868 million individuals, or 12 % of the world population, are undernourished.

In an attempt to address this problem, one of FUSIONS' focuses is on testing the role of in reducing food waste. But what exactly is social innovation? Sophie noted, 'The way we describe [social innovation] is simply new ideas that meet social needs and create new social relationships ... We have already got technological and communication activities but what social innovation can do is drive behaviour change in a way that is quite compelling.'

Social innovation may be a new combination of existing activities, crossing sectoral or disciplinary boundaries in a way that creates new relationships. According to Sophie, it is this essence of relationship-building which is both very powerful and unique to social innovation.

This can mean, for example, an initiative for redistributing food based on building an alliance between food businesses with a surplus and charities with a need.

FUSIONS has created an inventory of existing social innovation initiatives that are reducing food waste around the EU. The aim is to spread existing good practice but also hopefully catalyse some new ideas and take-up in other sectors or other countries. Sophie commented on the inventory, 'What really stands out is the variety of initiatives already being progressed at all sorts of levels. I think it really demonstrates how much individual effort is already going into reducing food waste and how much we can learn from each other. The inventory will be updated throughout the project so more examples are welcome!'

The project is also carrying out feasibility studies. It has awarded funding to eight different projects in different countries across Europe to test social innovation with regards to food waste. For example, in Greece, FUSIONS is working with a schools project that is creating innovative educational tools to help parents, children, educators and cooks waste less. Another project involves the implementation of new social supermarkets based on the experience of established markets in France and Austria.

The projects will be evaluated both quantitatively (how much waste they actually reduce, how many people have been involved) and they will be monitored the evolves and takes on new ideas and new challenges.

Led by Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek (DLO) in the Netherlands, other work packages within FUSIONS are engaging with the problem of food waste in different ways - for example, another focus is on analysing existing methods for gathering data in order to make a proposal for an approach to the European Commission. Sophie added, 'Getting good data is essential to know what you're dealing with, where the hotspots are and compare between countries / sectors to learn good practice.'

Sophie's organisation, WRAP, has already had huge success with initiatives in the UK where the amount of food waste has been reduced by 20 % since 2007. It is hoped that FUSIONS will also prove successful in contributing towards the EU target of reducing food waste by 50 % by 2030.

Explore further: Improving the health of Europe's fruit and veg industry

Related Stories

Improving the health of Europe's fruit and veg industry

June 13, 2014

Fruit and vegetables are not just good for your health; they also form the basis of a strong and sustainable European economic sector. Some 10 000 businesses - about 90 % of which are SMEs - are involved in fruit and vegetable ...

Breaking the cycle of food waste

February 28, 2014

Australian households throw away a whopping 5.5 million tonnes of left-over food every year – and UniSA PhD candidate Christian Reynolds is on a mission to break the cycle of food waste.

Fighting food waste in Nicaragua by 'eating united'

February 10, 2014

The former University of Bristol student's community project, 'Eat United Nicaragua', combats food poverty and malnutrition among the most vulnerable people in Managua, Nicaragua, by collecting and cooking food that would ...

Recommended for you

The world needs to rethink the value of water

November 23, 2017

Research led by Oxford University highlights the accelerating pressure on measuring, monitoring and managing water locally and globally. A new four-part framework is proposed to value water for sustainable development to ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 18, 2014
The large amount of fresh food waste is a lose-lose situation for the environment, the struggling families in today's tough economy and for the food retailers. There is no single cure, or silver bullet for food waste reduction therefore, we should address the food waste problem in every link in our food supply chain. For example, the excess inventory of fresh perishables close to their expiration on supermarket shelves, combined with the consumer "Last In First Out" shopping behavior, might be the weakest link of the fresh food supply chain.
The "End Grocery Waste" App, which is based on the open GS1 DataBar standard, encourages efficient consumer shopping behavior that maximizes grocery retailer revenue, makes fresh food affordable for all families and effectively reduces the global carbon footprint.

Rod Averbuch
Chicago, IL

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.