Francesca Goodman-Smith: Addressing the Problem of Food Waste in Supermarkets



Just because food looks ugly doesn’t mean it isn’t nutritious or should be thrown away. Photo / 123RF

By RNZ

The average New Zealand household sends nearly 10 times as much food waste per capita to landfill as supermarkets per capita, says an award-winning expert in the field.

It is estimated that one third of all food produced worldwide is wasted. New Zealand is one of 193 countries that have ratified the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include reducing food waste by 50 percent over the next 10 years.

Francesca Goodman-Smith, manager of Foodstuff’s waste reduction, wrote her dissertation at the University of Otago on the issue of food waste in supermarkets. She also volunteered with the food rescue organization KiwiHarvest, which distributes surplus food to those in need, and taught on the university’s groundbreaking food waste course.

She recently won the “change agent” category in the Sustainable Business Awards and was a finalist in the Climate Impact Awards.

Goodman-Smith has also designed an award-winning waste reduction program across Foodstuffs’ 135 stores.

Francesca Goodman-Smith says there is a stark contrast between those who need food and the amount that is wasted.  Photo / supplied
Francesca Goodman-Smith says there is a stark contrast between those who need food and the amount that is wasted. Photo / supplied

She told RNZ it “opened its mouth” to see the stark contrast between the need for food and the massive waste that is also going on.

She has done “official dumpster diving” and found that supermarkets had good systems for separating the waste, with about 46 percent going to animal feed.

About 15 percent were sent to people in need through food rescue organizations.

Goodman-Smith said there is solid data on food waste from supermarkets, households and the hospitality industry in New Zealand.

Households send 29 kg per capita per year to the landfill, for supermarkets this is 3 kg per capita.

“It’s not about blaming, it’s about opportunities.”

Supermarkets partner with food rescue organizations to reduce waste.  Photo / supplied
Supermarkets partner with food rescue organizations to reduce waste. Photo / supplied

Ugly is good

She said she wanted to break the stigma of what food looked like on the outside (like some crushed apples) and how nutritious it was “and really turning the knob doesn’t have to look perfect. Recommended.” [for] ugly fruits and vegetables [to have a specific] section … [that] is one way you can do that ”.

A few supermarkets do that in New Zealand and she would like to see it more.

“Abroad, they recommend that you actually weave products that don’t look perfect in normal economic lines, because that actually normalizes that everything doesn’t have to look perfect.”

Education and pricing would be key to wider adoption, she said.

“That’s where a lot of these food waste problems come from – people are programmed to look at something and say, ‘That’s good and that’s bad’.”

Goodman-Smith said that worldwide 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually, in New Zealand about 500,000 tons of food is dumped every year.

At Foodstuffs, the waste minimization program means that every waste stream is measured. The chain’s supermarkets divert 85 percent of their food waste from landfills. Instead, the food is reused, recycled or donated. The goal of Foodstuffs is to no longer bring food waste to landfill by 2025.

Her main goal for 2021 is to estimate what waste is still being produced, and she would be looking for technical solutions to optimize order and control data.

“You’re fine-tuning your processes so that waste is actually designed out of the system, instead of taking it for granted that some waste is going to happen and you deal with that at the end.”

About 500,000 tons of food are dumped in New Zealand every year.  Photo / Warren Buckland
About 500,000 tons of food are dumped in New Zealand every year. Photo / Warren Buckland

Bread must be frozen

Bread was the main product wasted in the household, she said, and should be kept in the freezer.

Carrots last 10 times longer if people put them in an airtight container with a paper towel that controls moisture.

Another tip for longevity of lettuce leaf bags was to add the paper towel, she said.

She recommended that people check out the Love Food Hate Waste campaign website for more tips on how to reduce food waste.

She said Foodstuffs had also signed up for the New Zealand Plastic Packaging Declaration, aiming as part of that to have all retail packaging reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025.


Source link