Sociologist suggests celebrity chefs can help limit food waste by promoting uses for leftovers

It is common to find food waste demonstrations in college cafeterias where students fill large receptacles with their leftover food. A sociologist argues that people need better models for how to use leftover food to limit food waste:

Sociologist Dr David Evans, from The Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester, says the pressure to cook meals from scratch using fresh ingredients while enjoying a variety of dishes throughout the week can actually lead to waste.

His qualitative study – in which he went into the homes of 19 Manchester households – helps explain why Britain throws away enough food each year to fill Wembley stadium ten times over…

Current levels of food waste, he argues, should be viewed as the fall-out of households negotiating the complex and contradictory demands of their day-to-day lives.

For example the pressure to cook and eat in the ways that celebrity chefs advise means that a lot of food is already at risk of getting thrown out.

He said: “A lot of so-called proper food is perishable and so needs to be eaten within a pretty narrow timeframe. Our erratic working hours and leisure schedules make it hard to keep on top of the food that we have in our fridges and cupboards…

People with influence – like celebrity chefs – he says, should acknowledge these issues and think about ways of making it socially acceptable or even desirable for us to eat the same meal several nights in a row or use frozen vegetables.

It sounds like this sociologist is suggesting that it is unfashionable and unreasonable right now for most consumers to eat all of the food that they have prepared.

1. I assume the fashionable aspect has to do with the image that food needs to be prepared fresh for every meal. This is what cooking shows typically demonstrate but it would be rare that home cooks could cook an exact amount at each meal. Could the Food Network really sell a show solely built around dressing up or using leftovers?

2. The second part of the argument is that life is too hectic for consumers to really eat all of their food. Couldn’t meal planning help here? (Or perhaps they need Ziploc bags to limit waste as an ad I just saw on TV suggested.)

Overall, this sociologist is arguing that we need a cultural shift regarding leftover food and the place to start is with important cultural figures/gatekeepers who can make it cool to not waste food. This is an interesting solution compared to the work of someone like Michael Pollan who suggests the answer to food issues lies more in rethinking our relationship to food and slowing down when we make and eat food.

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