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Stop the waste
Food, food, glorious food
As World Food Day brought waste into the public consciousness, the shocking truth of the millions of tons of food discarded annually in Spain was highlighted by local charities.

Fruit and vegetables are some of the main foods wasted
Fruit and vegetables are some of the main foods wasted

08.11.2013 - According to José Antonio Busto, president of FESBAL (the Spanish Federation of Food Banks), around nine tons of food is thrown out each year in Spain, and some of the greatest waste goes on in households.  Busto went on to clarify that by saying that up to 42 per cent of food is wasted in certain homes.

World Food Day (WFD), held on October 16 each year, was founded in 1979 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.  The aim is to raise awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger, with an emphasis on development in agriculture.  Yearly themes have included fishing and fishing communities; rural poverty; women in agriculture; and the contribution of small farmers.

However, where the focus on poverty has traditionally been in developing countries, there is now a much greater need than ever before in Western areas as, due to the continuing crisis, the numbers of people needing help with basic alimentation has risen alarmingly.

According to a study by one of the largest charities of this kind, Cáritas, there are currently three million people living in severe poverty throughout Spain.  Since 2010 food bank activity has increased 20 per cent annually, and in 2012 alone, the 55 food banks belonging to FESBAL distributed 104 million kilos.

Taken separately, in our archipelago the figures are even more alarming.   Compared to 2012, the number of people asking for help from the Canary Islands’ Red Cross has risen by 187 per cent this year so far, and to the present date 35,000 people have been assisted.

The Red Cross has been distributing food to the Islands’ needy and homeless for the last 20 years.  The organisation, like others of its kind, has seen a definite change in the type of person coping with poverty.  Traditionally it was older people living on the streets that tended to ask the Red Cross for help, but many are now people in their early 50s who have been laid off and are having trouble finding work, as well as youngsters, and couples with children who simply can’t make ends meet.  

According to a report in the El Dia newspaper, 10,000 pupils requested state-provided breakfasts for this school year, 3,000 of them secondary school students - an unprecedented figure.

Charities across Spain are overrun with demand and each kilo of foodstuffs collected by them is hard won – but whilst some people go without, others are regularly discarding enough food to easily feed all those in need.


What can you do?

A handy trick for making yourself more aware of waste is to keep a diary of everything that is thrown away, and why.  It can be a real eye opener and is often the kick-start that people need to help them make changes.

Once decided, there are several ways you can help avoid waste and the first place to start is in the supermarket.

Planning what meals you and your family will eat, and making a careful list of what you need, will make shopping easier and more effective.  We all make impulse buys, grabbing that lettuce or fruit at the last moment only to let it rot in the fridge, so get organised – it will even save you money.   And never set out on a shopping spree when your stomach is rumbling with hunger - you'll end up buying much more than you need.

Also, choose perishable items carefully - always pick ones with use-by dates as far in the future as possible.  

When cooking, get your portions right: try to prepare just the right amount or, alternatively, cook two meals at once and freeze one.   And, get into leftovers: there are plenty of ways of incorporating these into the next meal – again, much easier if you plan ahead.  Also, remember to keep the fridge temperature set so that food remains fresh for a longer time.  Apparently, between one and five degrees Celsius works best for maximum freshness.

And last, but not least, have a good look in the fridge, freezer and store cupboard once a week.  Make sure you know what you have, so you don’t double buy, and arrange goods in a way that everything is in sight and within easy reach, with those foods that need using up right at the front.


Lend a hand

You could also get involved in one of the many food collections.  For instance, the Spanish Federation of Food Banks is hoping to gather 10 million kilos of dried and tinned foodstuffs over November 29 and 30, for which it needs 60,000 volunteers.  The food will be distributed to charities and churches that currently work with the poor and is expected to help around 150,000 people.  You will find more information at:

For the Tenerife section of the charity see:; get in touch with your local Lion’s group or church, or see: for the local Cáritas charity. 

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Fruit and vegetables are some of the main foods wasted 
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