1. “Food Is…”
A documentary project which aims to engage people on the subject of avoidable food waste – the issue, the consequences and the solutions.
2. How long have you been in business/running your project?
The project started in September 2013, when I documented activities of an organisation called FoodCycle in London. From there I explored other initiatives, and then started visiting farms across the UK with the Gleaning Network, to explore farm-level food waste.
3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?
I’ve been involved in grassroots activism around environmental and social justice issues in some capacity for many years. When I lived in Amsterdam in the late 90s/early 00s, I also used to gather food to live off that would otherwise go to waste at a local market. So I’ve been conscious of the issue and the impact of waste, including food waste, for some time.
I’m also curious about everything, and the nature of the issue of food waste appealed to me on many levels, for if we impact positively on food waste we impact positively on so many of the issues of our time – soil degradation, climate change, the power and impact of the biotechs, food security, water security, deforestation and more.
When I started the project there was very little media attention, and I wanted to do what I could to raise awareness about the issue, and to provide exposure to those people and organizations who proactively do something to reduce the amount of edible food waste.
4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Completely out of the blue I was invited to give a lecture at the NYU campus in Florence, Italy last year. When I was walking up the tree-lined track to Villa La Pietra, gazing at the amazing views and the olive groves, listening to the professor who invited me talk about all the people who stayed and lectured at the campus, I felt more than a little overwhelmed!
Thankfully the lecture was well received, and the whole experience was amazing. You can see the lecture here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hpAlp6SRhc
5. How do you measure success?
In relation to my project the key measure of success would be the number of people who engage on some level with the work I produce. Unfortunately, this isn’t something I can really measure effectively. What I can measure is the size of my audience, and the rate at which it is growing. By constantly working on refining the work I produce – as well as exploring different formats such as short documentary films and podcasts – I hope to continually increase my audience. I am constantly refining what I produce to make it more engaging and more accessible, with the aim of maximising the potential for people to be inspired to take some sort of positive action – no matter how small.
Ultimately if I were to inspire just one person to take action, I would consider my project a success…and I think I have done exactly.
6. What have you learned in the process?
Where do I begin?! There’s so much I learned about so many things – such is the nature of documenting a complex, multi-layered issue like food waste! But one of the most positive and heartening things is that there are a lot of good, ordinary – I mean that in a positive way, and a thing to celebrate – people doing a lot of good things.
I already knew this generally speaking, but food waste, like so many issues, has some go-to people that get a huge amount of the attention – their work and their words are continually celebrated in the media, and tend to mould the public’s perception of an issue. This is great for nurturing an awareness of the issue within the public consciousness, but it also results in the crowding out of the voices of the multitude of grassroots initiatives – all of which deserve more attention than they currently receive.
There are so many grassroots initiatives doing something related to food waste, of all shapes and sizes, both nationally and internationally – it’s a beautifully diverse ecosystem – and is growing at a fabulous rate. With edible food being a valuable resource, there are also many enterprising individuals tapping into its commercial value – many of which function as social enterprises, and so serving the wider community, not just their own interests.
Bearing witness to this gives me hope that, despite a lack of meaningful action at a government, retailer and manufacturer level, the momentum for positive, meaningful change will continue to grow from the grassroots up, and with time will come to influence the actions of majority of individuals and organisations within our societies – increasing pressure on all sectors to take action.
With that shift in awareness, habits and business practices will come a positive, knock-on effect on all the issues of our time – hence the reason why we need to nurture the grassroots initiatives as much as possible.
7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the (food) industry/get involved in (food) work/start a (organization)?
I’ve been exposed to a multitude of different organisations and initiatives – each with its own story, and its own way of functioning – but what they all have in common is the spark that ignited each and every one of them, which was an idea nurtured by one or two passionate, driven people. So if you have an idea, just get out there and make it happen – there are plenty of people who will support you, and help make it work – then continually refine what you do and what you offer.
8. What’s next?
I am in the process of producing the first in a series of short documentary films on the many layers of food waste – ways of reducing it, and the various ways of managing it. The first will be on the date labelling of food – best before and use by dates – and will hopefully be completed by the end of the year.
I want to connect with as wide an audience as possible, and inspire them to take action, and so will continue to refine what I produce, and continue to explore all the possible means and ways of achieving that.
9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?
The breakfast I shared with my partner before she went off to Glastonbury for a few days. It was just a big bowl of porridge, but every meal I get to share with her is special to me.
10. To add:
If there is one issue you get behind, make it food waste – it impacts on all the issues of our time, and we are all part of the problem, but also part of the solution.
If you would like to follow my own exploration of the issue, then connect with my via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and my newsletter. And if you would like to access new and upcoming content beyond what’s on the website, then subscribe to my iTunes channel and YouTube Channel.
Many thanks to Chris King for sharing his story, his talent and his experiences!
We hope you enjoyed it.
All the best,