A recipe for people and planet

Steve Creed

I’ll admit - I’m a Great British Bake Off fan. In fact, I like baking full stop. Many of us bake for fun or to relax, for special occasions or celebrations. I particularly like baking as a treat for friends, family and loved ones, so care and passion always goes into baking. And I’m not the only one – during the GBBO premier this year, there was a surge in people searching eBay for baking products. We like to talk about food – buying it, making it, where to eat it, and as I’ve just started to lead on WRAP’s food work, I’m being asked about food much more.  

It’s easy to see something delicious and want to make it yourself. You might even have all the ingredients. But without a recipe to follow, getting the final result might be a challenge. This especially applies to baking – it’s a chemistry. A skill that requires precision, patience, and attention to detail. You have to get just the right amount of each element for things to work. And of course, if it’s not appealing, they’ll be no appetite for your creation.

But there’s something that I’d like to create, something I’m already working on. I’d like a world where food isn’t wasted. I know there’s some appetite, but people need to be hungry for it. So this World Food Day, I’d like people to have the same appetite for preventing food waste that we currently have for baking. So here’s my own recipe for change.


Just like cake, we need a supply chain that will rise to the challenge. We need them to be fit for the future, and that means eliminating waste. We need to make supply chains work for everyone - for producers, people, our pockets, and the planet. We put passion into baking, and so does the farmer who wakes up at 5:30am each morning to tend his livestock. So it’s not fair or right that 86 million chickens are thrown away each year, and that’s just one example.  


So what ingredients do we need to do the task? We need everyone involved with food, right the way, from field to fork. Specifically:

·         Farmers

·         Manufacturers

·         Restaurants

·         Supermarkets

·         Convenience stores

·         Brands

·         Redistributors

·         And the secret key ingredient - us


What we really need, is a good measure. WRAP’s research on food waste is known globally for being robust, providing a sound baseline. After all, if something isn’t measured, then it can’t be managed. We’ve also worked with the World Resources Institute to release the first ever global standard for measuring food loss and waste. New tools are helping to improve measurement, and the more accurate this is, the better.

Also, just like modern gadgets such as electric whisks have made life in the kitchen much more efficient, similarly, more sophisticated ways of getting food to our tables are also emerging. Just the other week, some of the first driverless tractors were shown on TV – this could mean big changes for farming, with more efficient machines. More examples are highlighted in WRAP’s Food Futures report.


So what’s the level of complexity? Well, in principle, it sounds easy. We just need to make sure that we eat everything we’re producing and buying – piece of cake, right? But in reality, forecasting, supply and demand, market fluctuations, change of plans, peoples’ knowledge, and shopping habits can add numerous complications.

At the moment, there’s no clear cut answer, but I believe that blending a mix of approaches works best. I often hear people making comparisons with other countries. France for example, has legislated to not send food waste from supermarkets to landfill. Similarly, the UK has largely eradicated food going to landfill from supermarkets through a tax system. France is also using voluntary agreements, as we have done for years in the UK through the Courtauld Commitment, which has been fundamental in delivering change. But for the real icing on the cake, we need people to take a slice of the action - planning, using leftovers, and buying only what’s needed. Ultimately valuing the food that we’ve spent hard earned money on and the food industry has spent hours producing.

This year’s World Food Day theme is climate is changing, food and agriculture must too’. And whether we like it or not, change is happening. Just last month the world past a significant 400 parts per million carbon dioxide threshold, marking a point of no return. And just imagine, around 250 babies being born into the world every sixty seconds - that’s the rate of population growth as it stands. By 2050, there will be more than 9 billion of us, and with a growing middle class, food demand will be up 60%. The good news is, these challenges can be remedied, but our time’s up – our practices, procedures, shopping habits and behaviours need to adapt.  We need a new recipe.

So we can have our cake and eat it after all, but we’ve had enough food for thought, now we need food for action.