We had the chance to meet with Chris King earlier this year at the Impact Hub of Islington. Chris is doing a documentary (www.foodis.org.uk) about initiatives fighting food waste, we asked him a few questions!
© Chris King / Food Is...
1. Could you tell us what is “Food is”?
Food Is… aims to start a conversation about food waste, and the action being taken to reduce the amount of edible food needlessly going to waste. It does so by sharing the stories of people on the frontline who are striving to make a difference – from volunteer gleaners to entrepreneurs using the food as a resource – informing people of the great work being done, and that everyone can do something to reduce the amount of food being wasted.
2. When did you start your documentary? Why did you decide to do it?
I started documenting the activities of people in September 2013, out of a desire to help raise awareness and promote positive action around a very important and far-reaching issue, that was getting very little media attention at the time.
I had always been conscious of food waste and waste generation in general, and I wanted to explore a subject visually that was under-reported, which I could immerse myself in, and that I could participate in in a meaningful way. I felt food waste was the perfect topic - primarily because by impacting on food waste positively you impact positively on all the key issues of our time – climate change, water security, food security, soil degradation, deforestation, the power of the biotechs and the prevailing narrative that there isn’t enough food to cater for an ever-growing population, and many more. That, combined with the fact that it is an issue that everyone on the planet can engage with and participate in addressing – there are no barriers whatsoever in anyone participating in some way - makes reducing avoidable food waste a very unique cause, and one that has a huge amount of potential to have a massive, positive impact.
3. Over the last few years, food waste gains a lot of awareness thanks to initiative like yours and other media reporting it. Why do you think it is becoming such a popular subject?
I think one of the most influential factors has come from an increasing number of people within wealthier countries suffering from food insecurity, while a scandalous amount of edible food needlessly goes to waste – drawing the spotlight on to the subject, and making it newsworthy.
Beyond this, there is an increased drive to close the loop on (food) production by seeing waste as a resource – creating a circular economy. This originally took the form of diverting food away from landfill and to anaerobic digestion*, but now with the increased awareness of the opportunity to rescue and redistribute edible food, this is evolving – a rise in the redistribution of food to charities supporting vulnerable members of the community, along with the rise of food waste entrepreneurs, capitalising on this valuable resource.
4. How did food waste evolve over the past century?
The history of food waste is something I’m largely ignorant of – in terms of facts and figures at least – but I am conscious of the fact that the current system, one that has evolved over the past 30 years or so, has largely been engineered by the supermarkets. But we as consumers are of course complicate in this, as the trust we have put in them, and our unquestioning acceptance of their practices, has resulted in the creation and sustaining of a deeply flawed system – generating criminal amounts of avoidable food waste up and down the supply chain - along with a significant loss of food culture and reduction in the perceived value of food.
© Chris King / Food Is...
5. What are the next steps according to you to try to solve the problem of food waste?
This is a huge question! But in short, the spotlight is often placed on the household and the need to address the amount of food waste being produced there, and while it is important that this does occur, more immediate and significant impact can be made by taking meaningful action at a retailer, manufacturer and government level. These sectors of society have the power and influence to affect a greater impact in a much shorter period of time, and that’s exactly what’s needed – especially when food waste contributes to all the issues of our time, and we need to do all that we possibly can to address them.
6. What role can play the government?
Rather than leaving it to retailers and manufacturers to self-regulate, and for small, independent, for-profit and non-profit enterprises to pick up the pieces of a flawed food system, the government needs to create legislation that ensures waste is minimised up and down the supply chain, and that waste which does occur is redistributed to charities where still edible, and where inedible converted to animal feed in the first instance, or sent to anaerobic digesters in the second.
7. From all the people and initiatives you looked into through your documentary, what would be the one thing you will always remember?
The people themselves, and the passion they put into the work they do – whether volunteer gleaners, or start-up social enterprises – each of them driven by a desire to reduce the amount of edible food needlessly going to waste.
Witnessing the work everyone’s done, and the impact they’re having has been an inspiration, and continues to be so.
© Chris King / Food Is...
8. How is food waste influence you in your daily life?
I try and waste as little as possible, try and buy only what I need, and buy discounted food where possible – ensuring it doesn’t end up in the bin. But I’m not militant about it – I’m a freelancer, and my everyday life is quite unpredictable, so I do produce some waste – more than I wish I did – but I am always conscious of it, and always strive to keep it to an absolute minimum.
9.What is the next steps of development of Food is...?
I would really like to make the project into more of a magazine and resource on food waste, rather than just a photographic project, and so I’ve updated the design of the site, and recently started producing audio podcasts. I also intend to start producing a series of short documentary films very soon. So be sure to follow me on social media or sign up to my newsletter to stay informed!
Thank you very much Chris!
More info on foodis.org.uk
Credit photo Chris King
* Anaerobic digestion is a series of biological processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. One of the end products is biogas, which is combusted to generate electricity and heat, or can be processed into renewable natural gas and transportation fuels (source: Wikipedia).