UK:Managing food scarcity by using -not wasting- leftovers
Recalling war time wisdom, UK suggests using and not waisting leftover could prove a smart strategy against food scarcity and higher prices. But, will it work elsewhere?
In Britain, wartime food wisdom finds a new role in battle to lower food prices
2008-07-10 21:32:11 -
LONDON (AP) - Waste not, want not.
Evoking an era of World War II austerity, British families are being urged to cut food waste and use leftovers in a nationwide effort to fight sharply rising global food prices.
It's not back to ration books, victory gardens and squirrel-tail soup yet _ but warning bells are being rung by experts at all levels of the British government, as well as those from the World Food Program.
«Well of course in the war years, it was not only immoral to waste food _ this was one of our slogans then _ it also was illegal,» said Marguerite Patten, 92, who worked at the Ministry of Food during World War II and urges a return to those more thrifty days.
«I know it's old fashioned, but some old fashioned things are worth doing,» she said.
Today's food crisis is part of an across-the-board economic crunch pummeling Britain, with housing and stock prices falling as energy costs soar. For the first time since Britain's 1940-1954 food rationing, a constant supply of high-quality, affordable food is no longer guaranteed, officials say.
Back then, German bombers blitzed London and conflict raged across Europe, crippling the flow of ships carrying food into Britain and devastating the nation's farms and factories so that it took years to recover.
Diets were tightly controlled by rationing, bananas and pineapples became exotic treats, and enterprising housewives traded recipes for baked hedgehog and carrot fudge.
Now experts say the postwar era of cheap food has ended _ squeezed by the demands of a growing world population, a greater appetite for meat among emerging middle classes in China and India and the pressure on agricultural land from biofuel production.
«Recent food price rises are a powerful reminder that access to ever more affordable food cannot be taken for granted,» Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, in a foreword to a bleak new report by Britain's Cabinet Office.
That report says the task of feeding a larger, richer world population _ while simultaneously tackling climate change _ is far greater than imagined. In addition, the World Bank estimates the cost of food staples have risen by 83 percent in three years.
No one is saying British efforts can stop food riots and protests around the world. And it might be a tad galling to take advice on the subject from Brown, who has been dining on sumptuous feasts at the G-8 meeting all week. But the government says the public might find one solution by looking into their garbage pail.
Britain throws out 4.1 million metric tons (4.52 million tons) of edible food a year, or about 420 pounds (US$832) worth per home _ wastefulness the government says contributes substantially to rising prices.
Those who remember Britain's 1940s «Dig for Victory» campaign to turn gardens and soccer fields into vegetable patches say the past holds lessons for any future food crisis.
Eggs, butter, meat and cheese were all strictly limited during rationing, prompting an adventurous few to turn to squirrels or horses for protein.
«We didn't live very grandly, but we learned to make do with what we'd got,» said Helen Trevena, 82, who recalled sweetening her tea with jam when sugar was scarce.
Brown has told Britons to store their fruit and vegetables better to avoid waste and plan their meals more carefully. Some municipal authorities want to go further and increase taxes on those who throw away the most rubbish.
It seems the new frugality just may be catching on.
«If I throw away food I feel guilty _ even if it's just a little bit,» said Tania Carbonare, a 45-year-old jewelry seller at London's Camden Lock market.
Britain's Women's Institute, launched in 1915 to help cut waste and encourage thrift during World War I, is once again offering classes on cutting food waste and livening up leftovers.
«People want those skills,» said Ruth Bond, an institute stalwart from Cambridge in southern England. «Apart from anything else, it helps them save money.
Associated Press Writer Emily Ristow contributed to this report from London.