Talking about food waste by not talking about food waste

In March, LCRN, with Hackney chef Alicia Weston, and hosted by the Shoreditch Trust, will be running 4 sessions for individuals receiving income related benefits.

One of the key outcomes we’ll be looking at is how this changes attitudes and skills within our participants around food waste. However, it’s the last thing we’ll be talking about in the sessions.

Why? Well, if you’re reading this you are probably interested to some extent in preventing food waste. I certainly am, but, frankly, it’s not something I often shout about at parties. Because, and you may want to sit down for this, most people aren’t that interested in waste. A bold assertion I know, but one that you know in your darkest moments to be true.

What people are interested in is saving money, eating better, learning new skills and having fun doing it . So, that’s what we’ve focussed on for our new of food skills programme. The LFHW five behaviours will be addressed, but we won’t take about it in a waste context. Furthermore, we have aimed it explicitly at those who might be considered in food poverty. This is not an easy thing to define or distinguish, so we’ve said those on income related benefits as short hand. This is because at LCRN we believe that environment and economy are intimately linked – we can help reduce waste and help people save money. Indeed, ensuring that food waste prevention isn’t just a middle class hobby is vital to seeing it taken up in a meaningful way, all part of a just sustainability.

But when I talk to local authorities about this approach, many appear ill at ease with the concept of dealing with waste, yet not explicitly mentioning that they are doing so. Every time I see a council cooking class, food waste is stamped all over it. But who actually wants to learn about preventing food waste? May I venture that it’s people who are already doing it? We want to engage those who don’t give a damn about it, have never thought twice about and would certainly never give up their evening to go to a lesson on it!

Why do they do this, when it is such a turn off to people? Whether this is worrying about seeming to deliver projects that are ultra vires (whether local authorities should see something as worthwhile as addressing food poverty as beyond their remit is another blog post entirely!) or not being able to justify to funders, managers or the public that they are actually dealing in an effective way with the topic at hand, waste prevention, unless they have a leaflet with the word ‘waste’ stamped all over it.

As long as your outcome is the behaviour you want, who cares how you get there?

It underlines why the third sector are the only people who can deliver effective, long lasting and meaningful behaviour change around waste prevention. We aren’t hide bound by departmental budgets and can talk to people about what matters to them, not what matters topoliticians. We can do it in a long term, actually rather intimate way (This isn’t new – WWF have talking about in via their outstanding Values and Frames work for years) and we can do it in the terms that matter to people.

What do you think? 


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