Food waste is a big deal: According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, 28 percent of the world’s agriculture area is used to produce food that ultimately goes to waste each year. But now, writes Feargus O’Sullivan for CityLab, a new supermarket stocked only with wasted food is tackling the problem head-on.
The project is an outgrowth of British non-profit the Real Junk Food Project, reports O’Sullivan. The group has long collected wasted food for pay-as-you-can cafés around the world, but its supermarket in Pudsey takes the concept one step further. The market takes food that’s donated by local restaurants and grocery stores and puts it on shelves to sells to customers who pay what they can.
As Hazel Sheffield reports for The Independent, the store is already serving as a lifeline for families who are down on their luck. It’s kind of like a food pantry, but has no restrictions on who gets the food. And the concept is not a new one: as Sheffield wrote in another report this month, the idea has taken off in Denmark, too, due to a government initiative to reduce the country’s volume of wasted food.
Last year, the USDA launched its first-ever food waste reduction goal, aiming to reduce the amount of wasted food by 50 percent by 2030. The agency estimates that cutting just 15 percent of this waste in the United States would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans per year. And hunger isn’t the only reason to reduce food waste: As Ben Schiller notes for FastCo, wasted food has a carbon dioxide impact equal to the output of one in four cars on the road worldwide and consumes a quarter of the world’s freshwater and 300 million barrels of oil each year.
So why do grocery stores toss up to ten percent of all wasted food? The USDA notes that dented and damaged packaging, products that haven’t been stored properly, holiday specialties that are never purchased, overstocked foods and weird-looking, misshapen foods account for the waste. In some countries, like France, it’s even illegal for grocery stores to throw out food—rather, they must donate their wasted goods to charity or to the poor.
Food waste supermarkets aren’t the only weapon in the fight against waste: From activists working to improve the cachet of strange-looking fruits and veggies to craft beers made of wasted products like stale bread and grapefruit, there are plenty of creative ways to buy and eat food that would otherwise be thrown out. Maybe it’s time to bring the food waste supermarket concept to the United States—a delicious addition to the smorgasbord of ways not to trash perfectly good meals.