GUEST POST: Tackling Food Waste in Sussex – The Fruit Factory 

You and I have something in common. Food. Getting together to cook, share a meal, and swap stories is something we can all relate to.On the flip side of this we instinctively know there’s something bad about wasting food. That’s why I wanted to write about Brighton Permaculture Trust’s crowdfunding appeal to finish the building of a straw bale Fruit Factory — saving unwanted local fruit from waste and turning it into delicious produce for the community.

Stopping food wastage is an invitation to celebrate and creatively enjoy the wonders of food – and come up with some fun and simple solutions. And that’s exactly what this project is all about.

Run by the Brighton Permaculture Trust the straw bale renovation will work to turn perfectly fine Sussex fruit into delicious produce, as well as teach the public. As a space for collecting fruit and gathering community, The Fruit Factory will foster a social buzz, a sort of ‘circular economy’, where those who have contributed apples, say from their garden, help with turning fruit into chutneys or juices, as their neighbour’s children learn about where those ingredients have come from and what to do with them.

Since the age of 15 I’ve been campaigning to change our attitude to waste. Asking for left overs from my school kitchen to feed my pigs I went on to the local baker and green grocer saving any thing they might be chucking away. Realising that most of the food I was collecting was fit for human consumption I decided to dig deeper and discover why so much food goes to waste.

We waste one-third of the entire produce of the earth. A billion people go hungry. We continue to chop down forests to grow more despite our vast quantities.In poorer countries a lack of post-harvest technology and infrastructure such as refrigeration contributes to wastage. The shadow side of supermarkets, wastage is inextricably tied to the manufacturing of food.

Closer to home an estimated 20 to 40% of UK fruit and vegetables are rejected before they reach the shops – mostly because they do not match the supermarkets’ strict cosmetic standards. In orchards around the country apples are left on trees because they don’t fit the bill.

But its not just supermarkets, its restaurants, shops and consumers – you and me – that are part of the picture.

This topsy-turvy food culture needn’t be this way. If we shift from the notion of ‘waste’ to one of ‘surplus’ then a whole slew of creative responses ensues.

There are so many exciting projects that are showing us the way.FareShare rescues “back of store” food waste that would otherwise stay behind restaurants, shops and supermarkets and redistributes it to charity partners where it gets turned into decent meals for those in need.FareShare Sussex, independently funded, is part of the national network working to join the dots and tackle food poverty and food waste.Another national network, The Real Junk Food Project, has a local chapter in Brighton — a city replete with good food and multiple food outlets. Again, the idea is simple: intercept food that, otherwise headed for landfill, can actually be of use and provide nourishment.

The national charity, FoodCycle, with hubs across the UK, connects volunteers, surplus food, and cooking spaces to create meals for people at risk of food poverty.

And its not just responses from charities that are doing great things. Businesses such as Rubies in the Rubble tap into the stream of discarded fruit and veg and turn them into chutneys. In Surrey, The Garden Cider Company make cider from spare and unwanted apples and pears.

The issue of food waste can be tackled with very simple ideas. The Fruit Factory, which is crowdfunding to complete the building before the next apple harvest, will be one more fine example of creatively responding to the challenge of surplus food and providing education at the same time. They need to raise £12000 before April 1st so if you can please support them and spread the word.

To find out more and to help make the Fruit Factory a reality visit the campaign

Written by Tristram Stuart, food waste campaigner